Your #1 Guide to Killing Employee Motivation




Let’s assume that you’ve achieved what most private physicians can only dream of: your practice is flawless. Your office is a well-oiled machine manned by energetic, loyal, and highly skilled staff members. They understand their job functions, are proud to be part of a culture that rewards hard work, and aim to equal, or even better their performance week in and week out.

But, maybe such smooth sailing bores you, and it’s time for a change. As the head of your practice, maybe you’d like to start working harder instead of smarter. It’s possible you’d like to drive your staff to the brink of employee burnout. In fact, it’s been far too long since you’ve reproached anyone, and that needs to change. Your office, your vision, your rules. You’re the boss. Here are some sure-fire tips to slowing down production, forever dashing your staff’s working life, and diminishing the overall quality of care administered at your practice.

Avoid clarity and positivity

In the early stages, candor and specificity will be your two biggest roadblocks toward eliminating employee motivation. How does one begin dealing with these two devils? By being observant. Try and take the time to notice all the individual ways your staff members have helped your practice. The next step is positive, genuine praise…

…which should always be withheld. The same is to be said of timely feedback. If you fail to point out what positive and productive thing your staff member did, the likelihood of them doing it again is diminished. In fact, in the absence of reinforcement, or any kind of reward-based incentives for a job well-done, they may not be able to tell the difference between a good job and a bad one. They certainly won’t be willing to go above and beyond anymore, for their own sake, or for yours. Win-Win.

Defeating personal initiative

If you’ve agreed to read on, then you are already halfway there. Now it’s time to get over that hump. To do that, you must first remember how resourceful your staff are, on the front end, and the back. So, you were purposely vague and obtuse about practice goals, and have deftly obscured a new hire’s specific job functions. It’s a good start, but, put simply, your job isn’t done.

Remember the reasons you hired this new staffer in the first place. Young, skilled, and eager to succeed, they will undoubtedly take matters into their own hands whenever they find themselves at a loss. Still highly motivated, the odds of them guessing right are in their favor, so it is important to criticize them as coldly and dryly as possible when they do not. Question them about their commitment to their job, or if they “honestly want to be” in their new workplace. You can effectively prepare for this encounter by working a series of passive-aggression drills with your HR person, or office manager.

After a few of these exchanges, you should see the change you desire. Or rather, you won’t see them. Your spunky, driven employee will no longer approach unknowns or difficult situations with a solution of their own. By now, they will have been conditioned to wait for explicit instructions from a superior. Herein lies the beauty of this: those instructions never come. If they do, they are usually incorrect, received in fragments from a number of different coworkers, or defunct office guidelines. (A note on the latter: a set of guidelines, or an operations manual governing everything from emergency procedures to waste disposal should either be totally absent, cleverly hidden, or woefully outdated and inundated with errors.)

Make the best of your worst resources

At this point, there may yet be a spark of positivity, and therefor motivation in your staff. What went wrong, you may ask. Take a good look around your office. New computers, updated systems and software, and an EHR seamlessly integrated with ICD-10 are not only expensive things to implement, they make your employees’ working lives easier. If these changes haven’t been made, then your next step should be to make an office-wide declaration promising that these upgrades will go into effect as soon as possible.

Don’t worry—you won’t actually be following through on this promise, not in any timely, pragmatic way, anyhow. Think back to the “office guidelines” example. If the current system being used is faulty, and the technology outdated, even your most motivated, quick-thinking staff members will make repeated mistakes. Simple tasks will be made longer, and more difficult. Needlessly difficult and tedious tasks, along with the persistent feeling of being wrong all the time, will kill motivation by a noticeable degree every day.

Consistently embrace inconsistency

Here, we are talking about your practice’s policy toward behavior and performance. Are you regularly censuring bad employees for their lack of effort, or willful carelessness? Are good employees rewarded not only for their own good work, but for picking up the slack of negligent coworkers? If you answered yes to both, then it’s time to shake things up a bit. We aren’t suggesting you should stop rewarding or punishing your staff. In fact, you should be doing more of it, and doing it openly.

Make sure the first-time perpetrator of an honest mistake gets quite an earful, while a regular offender walks away with a slap on the wrist. Maybe the latter’s uniform is impeccably starched, and wrinkle-free, and you simply love a well-laundered, and pressed uniform. Make sure they know it, and make doubly sure everyone else does, too. As many psychologists will point out, an unjust discrepancy in fairness and tolerance rouses the part of the brain where disgust resides. Whatever else may happen as a result, disgust is certain to trump motivation every time.

Well, that about does it. If you want to be the Nero to your practice’s Rome, just follow these simple, but highly effective strategies. By now you may even be able to create and execute a few of your own. Then, just sit back in your ergonomic chair with your favorite latte and watch as lethargy, frustration, and bitterness overtake your staff. You’ve certainly earned the privilege.


Brian Torchin

| HCRC Staffing | |

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