Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann
Dental Office Drama
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 days. It’s a rare treat to find a drama-free office. 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. I’ve had a few other scenarios that have come close to this same feeling, so I know it’s possible.
But 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 just starting out, you don’t 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.
Hygienists vs Assistants
They don’t always see eye-to-eye. Some (not all) Hygienists believe that the Dentist’s Assistants are there to assist them. This can cause a lot of drama because it’s not always true.
Some offices don’t employ specific Hygiene Assistants. If they don’t, then Hygienists are on their own to Chart, place sealants, bag and sterilize their instruments, and turn over their rooms. Depending on how many years they’ve been working and how frustrated they are with their job, they might find ways of forcing Assistants to assist them. Things like; dropping instruments in the ultrasonic and never returning, or intentially running behind to create the illusion that they need help.
Some Hygienists will be insulted by that, and others will recognize themselves. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes, in more than one office. It’s a shame and I always wish Hygienists and Assistants would learn to appreciate each other. Dental offices cannot run without Hygienists. But the exact same applies to Dental Assistants. Neither is more important than the other. The drama happens because they both forget that.
Operatories are generally pretty small. And, unless it’s a corporate office’s main headquarters, there are probably less than 20 people working in any dental office anywhere.
So we’re in small spaces doing repetitive actions all day long, in the smallest space of all; the mouth! When you look at it that way, it’s not surprising that we get on each other’s nerves.
Of course hormones come into play where dental office drama is concerned!
The majority of dental office staff members are female. If you work in a dental office right now, start counting. If you’ve worked in others before this, count your past coworkers. Female doctors, female staff. There’s A LOT of hormonally charged air flowing through there!
This one isn’t specific to dental offices, but it’s still important to mention. I wholeheartedly believe that there is good in everyone. Being mean is not a condition, it’s a choice.
But mean is just mean no matter the reason for it; jealousy, insecurity, or a just an unhappy heart. Bullying, gossiping, button-pushing, freezing people out. It’s sad and scary how quickly this stuff gets out of hand.
How to STOP Dental Office Drama.
Umm, BE NICE!
Go back and read that again especially if:
- You think you might be the problem. Have a brutal self-reflection chat with yourself. Can you admit to instigating any of this? Well, stop it! You’re getting paid to do your job. If something’s not working, approach your boss and fix it. In other words, behave like the grow-up that you are and do the job you’re paid to do. “Be a nice human.”
- You are the practice owner or manager. It’s impossible to eliminate drama when it starts at the top. Always lead by example. Squash negativity immediately. Be firm, but kind and give 100% to your job each day. “Leadership is not position or title, it is action and example.”
You’ve either witnessed the drama, or you’ve gotten complaints about it. DO NOT ignore it and hope it goes away! Find out exactly what you’re dealing with and fix it! Talk to everyone involved, together and separately. Get the facts. Then do what needs to be done, or say what needs to be said to end it.
These conversations are icky but they’re important! Sometimes people are going through things beyond their control that affect their moods and behavior. Maybe they have no idea how they’re coming off. Or maybe they do and they need your help.
Your goals are peace, harmony and teamwork. End these conversations with a plan to resolve the issue(s). Be vigilant. Always set a date to check in to be sure things stay on the right track.
Have set protocols and use them.
My favorite takeaway from working in a corporate office was that we had a physical office manual that included clear disciplinary guidelines.
Every employee should be given the rules when they first join the practice. Hopefully, things don’t get to this point. But people don’t change if they don’t want to. If you’ve already confronted them and they refuse to cooperate, then they’ve given you no choice.
- Verbal warning
- Written warning
You might think that’s extreme, and you can think what you want. But if you let this 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 weren’t brave enough to end a bad situation when you should have.
“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing, are the same.”