How to Motivate Your Dental Team When the Workload Piles Up

Roger Levin, DDS


Motivating your team is easy when the workload is moderate and everyone knows practice operations and systems like the back of their hand. But what happens when patients are coming in left and right and you’re introducing new practice policies and protocols?  

Extra work, practice changes, and new skill sets can create stress, resentment, and resistance even within the best dental teams. This, of course, can be disastrous. Dental practices do not operate in one way, at one speed, all the time.

You need a team that is energized, excited, and enthusiastic about implementing new practice improvements and skill sets to help them get through challenging days. Consider these strategies in motivating your team through change and challenges. 

Be Positive

Start by displaying a high level of positive energy about everything you’re asking the team to do. All too often, dentists tend to simply tell team members “to get it done.” This may have worked well with the workforce a hundred years ago. But today’s modern employees are not as tolerant, nor are they as afraid of losing their positions. Displaying a positive approach to tasks and explaining what needs to be done goes a long way toward engaging people and galvanizing them into an energized team. 


Let your team know that you recognize that there is more work and more to master but that it will ultimately lead to a new level of efficiency and improvement, making the practice more successful. Make sure you display a high level of appreciation and share how you’ll help them get through this process. 

Set Benchmarks

Rather than outlining a huge workload for major skill set transitions such as new computer software, insurance company changes, or new policies and systems, it makes more sense to break projects down into measurable benchmarks toward completion. This will help the team visualize what they can accomplish in the next week, 30 days, or 60 days rather than what must be done over the next 6 to 12 months.

For example, practices planning to go paperless will have many decisions to make, an enormous workload, dual systems for some period of time, and a new set of required protocols and policies. This could easily take a year to complete, which will seem overwhelming for the staff. However, by breaking down the process into 30-day increments, it becomes much more manageable in the eyes of the team.

Ask for Input

Regularly ask your team for input. If the new workload is simply thrown onto the team, it will lead to resentment. But if they have some opportunity to offer input, they will be much more likely to feel that they’re part of the process. This leads to a higher level of commitment and less resentment. They will also get a preview of how the process will be carried out in day-to-day operations, which makes their insights valuable along the way.

Offer Bonuses

Unlike bonuses based on production, there’s a wonderful opportunity to offer bonuses at each benchmark. Bonuses can be money, vacation days, dinners, celebrations, or office trips. Rather than requiring outstanding performance, focus bonuses on motivating the team toward completion of each benchmark. This helps to make the workload fun, not overwhelming and frustrating. You want people to feel they’re contributing to the improvement and success of the practice, rather than constantly asking “Why do I have to do this?”


It’s inevitable that practices will experience times with high workloads, major projects, and big changes. This is the nature of business. However, it’s in people’s human nature to resist and resent these times, which can lead to permanent bad attitudes. By implementing these recommendations, practice leaders can motivate teams to feel enthusiastic and encouraged rather than resentful and frustrated. 

Dr. Levin is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and more than 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the United States and around the world. To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit or email Six Ways to Lo

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