AADOM News |4 min read

5 Critical Questions to Motivate an Unmotivated Employee

Kristi Abrahamsen with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

Always late to work, unorganized workspace, or a poor attitude. Whatever the “symptoms” of an unmotivated team member are, they’re probably bothering you because, in reality, they’re actually making you look bad.

These are clear signs that your team member has fallen ill with “Motivation Distress,” and as the dental practice manager, you’re the doctor who needs to diagnose the cause and find the cure, stat!

Often, unmotivated team members are not willing to discuss the issues at hand.

They just want to punch in, punch out, and go home. When asked, their first response is “I’m fine” or “Nothing’s wrong,” but your gut knows that’s not the case.

Let your team member know that you see a problem.

Unmotivated people often think that things are not noticed, nor the greater impact these issues can have on the entire team.

However, it’s important to remember that this is not the time to discuss job performance. It’s a conversation about motivation.

Let them know that they aren’t meeting expectations, but strongly reassure them that you feel they could if they have the drive. Be the supportive coach. Having your team member believe you have their best interests at heart will lay the foundation for an open and honest conversation.

Asking open-ended questions is the best place to start.

During your meeting, ask them:

1. “How do you feel about your position and the team environment?”

How your team member responds may lead the conversation to more specific questions. If there have been recent changes to the work dynamic, such as a new team member, new software, etc., ask how it’s working out for them.

2. “What elements of your job do you enjoy?”

Not everyone “loves” everything about their job, but if you can, focus on certain tasks they do like most.

You may have the ability to arrange they take on more of those roles or make reasonable accommodations that’ll work with the practice.

Another option would be to move them to a position that maximizes the talent that they do succeed at.

3. “What would you like to do in the future?”

Maybe their current position isn’t their end game. Maybe they feel they are missing something. It may be a new skill, opportunity, or promotion. If it’s something the practice can support them with, develop a plan to help get them there.

4. “What do you find frustrating about work?”

Be prepared that their answers may reveal bigger issues than you thought. It’s also possible that they may be frustrated with your management style.

As dental practice leaders, we need to adapt and motivate all types of personalities. Use this as an opportunity to grow and make improvements in your work relationships.

5. “What causes you to worry at work?”

This question is designed to uncover any skills where the team member may be lacking confidence or experience. Maybe they are feeling insecure about chairside assisting because they aren’t familiar with how a new product is used, or if they aren’t routinely taking PAs, they’re worried about what the doctor will say about the way they look.

Whatever it may be, work together to find the solutions or offer training to rebuild their confidence and increase their skill set.

As dental leaders, we have an organic need to fix everything. It’s better to uncover any motivation concerns as early as possible rather than hoping it’ll all work out on its own.

Continue to come from a positive place and coach your team to be the best they can be!

Meet the Author

Kristi Abrahamsen wearing black scrubsKristi Abrahamsen… This text opens a new tab to Kristi’s about page…, MAADOM is privileged to serve as the President and a Member of the Bay Area, CA AADOM Chapter… This text opens a new tab to the Bay Area chapter’s website….

Since 1991, she has worked in multiple capacities throughout both orthodontic and periodontic specialty practices. In addition to being a registered dental assistant, she currently leads as a dental office manager for Gila C. Dorostkar, DDS Pediatric Dentistry… This text opens a new tab to the practice’s website…, a multi-location, multi-doctor practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Kristi is a Disney Institute alumni and shares her strong passion for outstanding customer service and commitment to excellence with her team.


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