Dental Staffing

How to Fire a Dental Employee Who Won’t Join the Team

Your Dental Team spends a great portion of their waking hours in your Dental Practice. To keep the business running smoothly, it’s imperative the Staff remain productive and efficient. If any members of your Dental Team are challenged to accomplish this end goal, it may be time to find another Dental Professional to join the valuable members of your Team.

My experience has shown that most Dentists know they have a weak link, yet fail to address the situation. This places undue stress on the rest of their staff and endangers losing a highly valued Dental Team member. This article guides both the Dentist and the Office Manager in an appropriate system for letting an employee go.

Why it’s important to know how to appropriately fire an employee

The decision to terminate an employee can be challenging and emotional. It’s important to have a system in place to manage the process professionally and avoid potential problems. When an employee is struggling to meet the Dental Practice guidelines for performance and behavior, it can only benefit your entire Dental Team to make a change.

Having a clear system to appropriately terminate an employee allows them to manage the interaction in a calm, mature manner and helps avoid legal action they may otherwise consider. Further, it can decrease the possibility of having them spread negative comments about your Dental Practice.

Any reasons for termination should be clearly outlined in an employee manual at the outset of employment. If warnings have been given in writing, signed, and dated, you have a higher likelihood of the employee understanding why they are being let go. Common reasons for firing an employee include:  

  • Unprofessional attitude
  • Poor job performance
  • Insubordination
  • Poor attendance
  • Poor language choices
  • Bullying
  • Sexual harassment
  • Creating an unsafe environment
  • Repeated tardiness
  • Theft/embezzlement

Tips to follow when firing an employee

  1. Provide warnings before termination
    If the employee has read and signed the employee manual when initially hired and the system of termination is clearly understood, the employee is aware there will be warnings. At the warnings, present a plan to help them improve performance, outlining the changes that need to be made. The plan should also explain what the entire Dental Team can do to assist them in making the necessary changes. All elements of the warning should be in writing, dated and signed by the employee and the individual presenting the warning.

    The number of warnings you choose to allow is a personal decision; I recommend two warnings and the third strike, you’re out.
  2. Meet with the employee in person 
    To meet with an employee in person is obvious. Warnings and terminations should never be done over the phone, in a text or email. Meeting in person allows you to present the warning documentation, the exact incidences where the expressed goals are still not being met  and answer any questions the employee may have. Whether it be for a warning or termination of the employee, it’s important to present the issues in a respectful and professional manner. Your decision to present a warning or to terminate should be stated clearly and in writing, signed and dated by both parties.
  3. Be honest throughout your explanation 
    It’s particularly important to be prepared for either the warning or the termination meetings. Even with a couple of warnings, the news of being fired can present confusion and surprise. Have the termination carefully documented, explaining the reasons for your decision and remain honest. Allow them to view copies of the warnings and termination documentation. Remind them they could not meet the guidelines you laid out for them.

    Remain calm and confident in your decision and be certain they understand your decision is final. Presenting firm facts in the proper tone of voice helps them understand there is no chance of being rehired.
  4. Give them space to gather their personal items 
    I recommend the terminated employee be told at the beginning of the lunch hour or at the end of the workday. This gives them space to collect their personal items and return any office keys or other office materials out of view of other employees. I also recommend another employee such as a Lead Dental Assistant or Office Manager be present as a witness for any number of reasons. Allowing them this courtesy preserves dignity and a positive office culture.




“It’s not the people you fire who make your life miserable.
It’s the people you don’t.”
- Dick Grote