Employee Motivation Part II

Thomas E. Cavanaugh, DC, MBA

In Part I of our series of “Employee motivation’ I discussed the lack of having the proper resources and training materials as one of the reasons why a doctor may have an unmotivated staff.  This week I will discuss another reason and one that I consider to be like the “bubonic plague,’ running rampant through both small and larger offices of corporate America.  It is a lack of appreciation and it creates a slow death of employee motivation.

The Appreciation Factor

Lack of appreciation is a common complaint of employees. In larger businesses, most employees do not have direct contact with their employer, and they work under the direction of an immediate supervisor.   It is the responsibility of the supervisor to make sure employees´ job performances meet or exceed the expectations of their employer. Unfortunately, many supervisors are not “people persons,’ and do not understand the “appreciation factor’ or its tremendous motivational value.

An employee does not have to be an arm´s distance from their employer to feel unappreciated.  A staff in a small office or practice, works closely with their employer on a daily basis but may never be directly told that they are an asset to the company, or that they are appreciated for their great attitude and hard work.  
 It is a natural and internally built-in human requirement that makes each of us need to feel appreciated.  Some owner doctors fail to adequately use the “appreciation factor’ simply because they don´t think about it … they don´t have anyone higher up giving them the “addaboys,’ so during a busy practice day it´s not something that crosses their mind to pass on to others.  These doctors ultimately learn the hard way – unmotivated employees have a negative and damaging impact on a practice.

Place Yourself In Their Shoes

Like most young doctors, I did not learn about the employer/employee “appreciation factor’ prior to opening my practice.  I was so focused on making sure things got done and done right, that I spent way too much time “auditing’ my employees´ work and not nearly enough time “thanking’ them for it.  I paid the price and lost a couple of good people due to my lack of expressed appreciation. It was not that I was a bad doctor - I just lacked the mentorship that saves young doctors from making certain avoidable mistakes on their way to becoming great bosses.


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Many of you doctors are doing exactly what I did before I knew better.  Many of you have been able to fund your education with student loans and have never actually been an employee.  Then, wham! … You graduate, you pass your boards and suddenly you´re a “boss,’ responsible for hiring and managing employees and you´ve never been one yourself!  And, unless you have an experienced practice building coach guiding you, how could you possibly know that “appreciation starvation’ is truly a source of motivational malnutrition?

Regular Maintenance Needed

Consider for a moment the maintenance that you might have done on your x-ray processor.  You follow the manufacturer´s recommended maintenance program and have a technician come in once a month to clean your processor, replace worn parts, and change the fluids.  If your processor does not receive the recommended maintenance, it will almost surely begin to malfunction and do a poor job of processing your films.  And, if you keep using the processor without addressing the malfunction, it will eventually stop working all together.  It is important to know that it is far less expensive to “maintain’ a processor than to “repair’ one, and the longer a malfunctioning processor is used, the lesser the chance of it being repairable at all.

The same is true for employees.  It is far less costly for you to use the “appreciation factor’ and keep your employees motivated and working at top performance, than it is to do damage repair once you realize your practice is suffering (fewer referrals, more missed appointments, a drop in new patients, etc.) from unmotivated employees.  

Don´t you think the needs of your employees deserve the same (or better) consideration as you give your x-ray processor?  On a regular basis, your employees “need’ positive reinforcement from you. They “need’ to know you appreciate their good work. They “need’ to know you appreciate their extra efforts. They “need’ to know you care.

Yes, your x-ray machine, rehab equipment, adjusting tables, etc. are important assets, but their value cannot compare to that of your walking, talking assets.  Employees are the lifeblood of every company, including your chiropractic practice.

Little Things Bring About Great Results

Understand this. It is not that an employee needs a pat on the back or an “addaboy’ everyday. What your employees want is to be recognized for competently completing their assignments, or accomplishing something extra that might add value to the practice.  Your employees want and need to know that you appreciate them and are pleased to have them as part of your practice building team.

Whereas most things wear out from use, a heart felt “thank you’ never wears out, never gets old and never goes out of style.  I consider it phenomenal, how the utterance of these two little words can generate the employee motivation that brings the doctor greater success and respect from his/her staff.

Conclusion: I conclude this week´s newsletter with a phrase I often hear on a daily radio station from a rather exuberant humorist - “Wake up America…and start showing those who work for you some appreciation!’

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