Meritocracy or Mediocrity?

February 21, 2022
*This page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase from these links we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Our children went to private schools that from K-12 that were considered among the best in the area.  We more than willing to make the financial sacrifice to give them the best possible foundation.  I guess that today, those institutions would be considered “progressive”.

When I went to our son’s 8th grade parent teacher conferences, I came away furious.  Inevitably, when I asked the teachers how he was doing, the responses I received were; he’s doing well, he participates in discussion, he’s such a wonderful child. “He’s doing WELL?”

My response to these were; what grade does “well” translate into?  When he applies to colleges, will they give a rat’s ass about how ‘wonderful’ he is?

He was being judged using some ‘anecdotal’, vague and incomprehensible to others system.  Certainly, it was incomprehensible to me and I sat on several post-graduate admissions committees.

I wanted an objective measurement of how he was doing.  I wanted a SCORE.  After all, that’s how colleges would be judging him!

And yet, when I ask dentists and practice managers how they rate their staff, I get the same KUMBAYA, subjective answers.  No objectivity at all.

The employment issues currently facing nearly every business in the US are both a challenge and an opportunity.

People are reluctant to come back to work unless they are motivated by more than money.  For without such a motivation some have opted to leave the workforce and stay at home, something the government has not totally discouraged.

Dental practices are having challenges hiring people.  The result is a tendency to keep what you have and accept mediocrity.  “If I fire so and so, will I be able to fill the position?”  It’s the Devil I Know vs. the Empty position dilemma.  With an empty position who will take up the slack?  How will the work get done?

Is work done improperly better than work not done at all or deferred?

Acceptance of mediocre performance leads to a culture of mediocrity.  Practice-wide performance eventually levels out to the lowest performance denominator.  If the practice leadership accepts mediocrity, that’s what it will get.

Mediocrity leads to practice stagnation, increased drama and un unhappy environment.  It’s one of the reasons so many practice owners have thrown up their hands and sold to DSO’s.  As if that will change the paradigm or culture that they had enabled.

Do DSO’s have some magic potion that can solve the employee issues?

While they might have better recruiting ability and resources, they don’t have the ability to be in the practice daily and evaluate and remediate performance issues.  YOU DO.

But most dentists and even their practice managers avoid confrontation.  That’s why less than 10% of all practices regularly perform performance reviews.

Dentistry is a team sport.  We need people rowing together towards a common destination, with a common vision.  That vision should be clearly defined and promoted via clear job descriptions with appropriate metrics and regularly scheduled performance reviews.

Don’t fail your employees as the school systems have been failing our children.  Give them rules and give them feedback.  Give them support and give them direction.  Show them that you care about how they spend the majority of their weekly time.  It should be pleasant and productive.  It should result in transforming people’s lives.  It should be more than a number on a paystub.

Keeping score is how all sport is played.  Without it, it’s just goofing around during recess in the playground.

Your practice is not a playground.  People must be cared for, and their lives improved. What we do matters, our results matter, our scores matter.

Want a SCORECARD?  We have one for the taking.

And, if you’d like to participate in a program that discusses such issues and share your questions and results with a group who understands and might even help you resolve some of your more stubborn problems, consider joining the Coffee With The Coach Program.


To winning,



Practice Success Insights

Sign up to receive insights into building a successful practice via email with the free Practice Perfect Pearls Newsletter.
Dr. Michael Goldberg is one of the leading educators on dental practice management in the United States.

Michael ran and sold a prestigious group practice in Manhattan and has been on Faculty at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Medical Center for 30 years including Director of the GPR program and Director of the course on Practice Management.

Book a FreeStrategy Session

Latest Articles

How to Stop Cancellations... without spending more.

Learn how successful practices ensure their appointment slots are filled... and their patients keep coming back!


The Proven Way to
Reboot Your Practice...

Increase profitability, decrease stress and achieve your goals with proven ways to ensure your practice thrives


From Hello to Hugs

Get the sensational book on how to turn callers into raving fans. A guide to making MORE from LESS in your dental practice.


Join Michael LIVE for the FREE Monthly Coffee With the Coach Webinar

Invite your entire team and get expert advice from an industry expert on a new, timely topic every month that you can implement in your practice right away.