"Buy" your staff?

Oct. 1, 1998
I found the article by Dr. Roger Levin in the June issue ("Bonus System: Yes or No?") most surprising. I certainly would not want my office staff to be those who "will not spend time or focus on ways to build the practice." But his view that a bonus system, or some financial reward outside of salary, is necessary as motivation for excellence is in contradiction to most of the management texts I`ve read.

I found the article by Dr. Roger Levin in the June issue ("Bonus System: Yes or No?") most surprising. I certainly would not want my office staff to be those who "will not spend time or focus on ways to build the practice." But his view that a bonus system, or some financial reward outside of salary, is necessary as motivation for excellence is in contradiction to most of the management texts I`ve read.

He poses the questions, "Why would anyone go the extra mile?" "Why would someone work extra hours without complaining, push farther, and retain a strong commitment to your practice?" While the answer he gives is a bonus system, other studies do not agree. The behavioral scientist Herzberg published in 1959 [(Frederick Herzberg, et al. The Motivation to Work (New York: Wiley & Sons)] studies that valuated motivational influences on nonblue-collar workers. He found that salary and compensation questions are a dissatisfaction, which, when removed as factors, do not lead to worker satisfaction. The important satisfiers were achievement, recognition, the work, and responsibility. The structured bonus is money, but if it flies in the face of a poor work environment and lack of achievement and recognition, the desired result will not be reached.

What I got from Dr. Levin`s article is the feeling that your staff can be bought. The best staff members are those who are self-motivated to excellence and feel that`s why they`re being paid a fair salary. Incidentally, many of my staff members have been in my office for a long time - almost 20 years for two. Linda, Anne, Ruthie, Lynn, Donna, Kelly, Margie, Barb, Rebecca, and Pam always have thanked me for the extras, be they holiday bonuses or lunches. They will get the extra recognition with their mention in this letter, and all it cost me was praise.

Stuart F. Fass, DDS

Altamont, NY

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