If you’ve ever worked in a dental office, you know what I mean by dental office drama. In some offices it feels like a living, breathing presence. Right up there with the playground and the high school cafeteria.
It’s a shame because it can make for some long and stressful work days. It’s a rare treat to find an office that’s drama free. My happiest working years were spent in a tiny one doctor, general practice. I worked there for twelve years and we had almost zero drama. Those people were like family to me. Some of them still are. And in 32 years of dental office life I haven’t found anything that’s come close to it.
So why is drama so common in dental offices?
Even if you’re not a Hygienist doing the most repetitious job on the planet, dental office life can be pretty tedious. We spend our days following a set schedule, and all of our jobs revolve around the same five or six procedures. From the back clinic to the front desk, every task has a system or protocol we have to follow. Over and over again. Every. Single. Day.
When you’re new to the field you don’t really notice it. But after 5 or 10 years I guarantee you, even your Dentists are looking for ways to amuse themselves.
Sadly not everyone’s idea of amusement is positive. Some people entertain themselves by pitting people against each other and stirring the sh– in the office. All because they need a little excitement to break up their day. Not cool.
‘Idol hands are the devil’s workshop.’
Ever worked with someone who actually worked at not working? It’s crazy right? But these people exist and most of them work in dental offices.
The trick is, they always look busy. But they’re not actually doing anything. They spend lots of time just staring at their computer screen. They love making lists! Lists of tasks that need to be done and items that need to be restocked. But oddly the tasks are never completed, and nothing is ever fully stocked. Bathroom breaks are frequent and unusually long. (With no known health issues.) And one of their favorite pastimes is complaining about how exhausted they are, because they’re just so busy.
Coworkers won’t call them out on it because what’s lazy person going to do? Apologize and start doing her share? Of course not. She’s either going to; A. cry, or B. give a bullet list of reasons why she’s not doing her job. None of which are her fault.
So instead of confronting what does everyone do? They are nice to her face, and they talk about her behind her back.
‘The world is filled with two kinds of people. Those that are willing to work. And those that are willing to let them.’
I wholeheartedly believe that there is good in everyone. Being mean is not a condition, it’s a choice.
Mean is just mean. Whether it’s jealousy, insecurity or a wicked soul behind it, it’s usually just one or two people infecting the practice. You’ve been there so you know. Bullying, gossiping, button pushing, freezing people out. It’s sad and scary how quickly this stuff gets out of hand.
‘If you didn’t hear it with your own ears or see it with your own eyes. Don’t invent it with your small mind and share it with your big mouth.’
How to eliminate dental office drama
Be nice and do your job
Simple right? The most basic idea and yet it’s super important for two reasons
- YOU THINK YOU MIGHT BE THE PROBLEM. Do you recognize yourself in any of the problem scenarios? Well stop it! Be nice and do the job you’re paid to do. If something’s not working for you, approach your boss and try to fix it. In other words, behave like the grow-up that you are. ‘Be a nice human.’
- YOU ARE THE PRACTICE OWNER OR OFFICE MANAGER. It’s impossible to eliminate drama when it starts at the top. So always lead by example. Squash negativity immediately. Be firm, but always be kind. Give 100% to your job each day. ‘Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.’
Have a conversation
You’ve either witnessed the drama yourself, or you’ve gotten complaints about it. DO NOT ignore it and hope it goes away on it’s own! Embark on a fact finding mission to know exactly what you’re dealing with.
Sometimes people are going through things beyond their control that change their moods and behavior. Maybe they have no idea how they’re coming off. Or maybe they do and could use some help fixing the problem.
Your goal is peace and harmony in the office. End the conversation with a plan to resolve the issue(s), and a set date to chat in three or four weeks to be sure things are on the right track.
‘Always help people. You might be the only one that does.’
Have firm disciplinary protocols in place and don’t be afraid to use them
The corporate world was not for me. But my favorite take-away was having a physical office manual that included firm disciplinary protocols.
Every employee should be given the rules when they first join the practice. Hopefully things don’t get to this point. But if you’ve already had a chat with them and they refuse to change their behavior, then they’ve given you no choice.
- Verbal warning
- Written warning
You might think that’s extreme. Think whatever you like. If you let this stuff get out of hand, I promise you’ll regret it. Firing people is the pits. But it’s better than having good people quit because you didn’t have the courage to end a bad situation when you should have.
‘Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing, are the same.’