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How To Get A Toxic Dental Employee To Quit…and Quick!

by | Dec 21, 2020 | Dental Practice Management, Office

Dear Dr. Gina,

I have this front desk employee at my practice who is absolutely toxic and has been mentally checked out for quite some time now. She has several years of experience working in a practice and was absolutely fantastic at first…the opposite of toxic! Initially, we liked her so much that we appointed her manager-in-training after just a few weeks.

Then, something happened. Despite claiming that it’s her “dream” to become the office manager of a practice, she has continuously been the last to show up and the first to leave every day. We’ve adjusted her time card numerous times because she forgets to clock in and clock out. We’ve done our best in giving her multiple warnings about this but feel helpless in motivating her to be better. Some of our favorite patients in my practice have even voiced concerns about her as well!

At this point, we want her gone, but I don’t want to pay for Unemployment…what strategies can we use to get her to leave? Is there a way to subtly hint or do things that would make her want to quit? Please advise. I need this toxic employee out of my practice ASAP. Having her at the office is like eating poison every day.

Please Advise, 


Dear Stressed-Out-ToothDoc,

Just set her free.

If I were you, I would be direct and say to her, “This is not working out. Here is your final check, including all of the PTO that you are entitled to receive. Can I have your key, please?”


Don’t Step Over Dollars To Pick Up Pennies.

That’s it! Nothing else. No explanations, no hugs, and no second chances for a toxic employee. Don’t worry about how your Unemployment insurance increase. I promise you that you will never know the difference.

To put this in perspective, I am a practice owner and lead a team of thirty employees in my practice, including several associates and six hygienists. My payroll is pretty high, as you can imagine. And, my practice is in California, where the Unemployment insurance rate is already pretty high.
Delight Your Patients With A High-Quality Team.

My patients have an amazing experience with my practice and are always delighted with my team because I hire and keep great people. Many of my employees have been with me long term for about ten, fifteen, and eighteen years. I have such a low turnover rate and a great team because I don’t hold on to people who are not a good cultural fit for my practice. I also spend a lot of time training those who are a good fit! Holding on to toxic employees because you are worried about the Unemployment rate is like stepping over dollars to pick up pennies. Let go of that employee and throw that penny goodbye in the wishing well. Better is yet to come.

Let me explain why holding on to these toxic employees or using passive-aggressive strategies to “make them leave” does not work.
I highly suggest that you read the book “Uncomplicate Business” by Dr. Howard Farran. Everything you need to know about running a business is in this book. On page 53 of the book, Farran says, “Fire the right people. It’s easy to spot the D’s and F’s. It’s the C players who are killing your company!”

Who are these C players, you may ask? They are the toxic ones…they are often employees who do decent work, but they are a poor cultural fit for your practice. One of the problems with toxic employees is that, although not always, often they are smart and productive people. They care about their results and your practice, but only to the extent that it makes them look good. They don’t care about the rest of the team or the long-term success of your practice. They only care about themselves.

Keep in mind that the cost of keeping the wrong person is 15 times their annual salary. That money is then lost from your budget and could have been used for something extremely important, like marketing your practice. Now you’re thinking, “Unemployment? Who cares about Unemployment?”


Let Go of The Bad Apples.

In an experiment conducted by Will Felps at the University of South Wales, Australia, a “bad apple” was hired to infiltrate different groups to see how his behavior would affect the entire team’s performance. In this experiment, the bad apple, Nick, portrays three negative archetypes: the Jerk, the Slacker, and the Downer.
The results speak for themselves. In every group, Nick’s behavior reduced the quality of the group’s performance by 30 to 40 percent. It didn’t matter what negative stereotype Nick portrayed. The drop off in performance was consistent. Research shows that toxic employees cause other (much better) employees to leave sooner and more frequently, which generates huge turnover and training costs. They reduce the productivity of the entire team.


Increase Morale and Productivity By Saying Good-Bye!

It does not matter how productive or irreplaceable these employees appear. When you hold on to negative, grumpy people and spend your time trying to motivate, manage, and hold them accountable, they drag the entire team’s morale and productivity down. And THAT costs you a lot of money. Plus, these toxic employees significantly increase the cost of turnover in your practice, which adds to the cost of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees. Meanwhile, your production and collections are down, and patients feel that your office is not a happy place. On the other hand, when we hire motivated people whose values align with ours, we don’t need to motivate or micromanage them. When we have the right people, we need to give them the resources they need and step out of their way to let them shine.


Dr. Gina Dorfman 


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