PMA | Does Your Dental Staff Belong?

Does Your Staff Belong?

Lynne Nelson

One of the questions I hear quite frequently is, “How can I find good staff?” or “Why can’t I seem to hold on to the good ones?” Well, I decided to do a little experiment with one of my clients. With his permission, I called on former employees. I tracked some of them down and told them that I was on a fact-finding mission to profile their former employer’s management style. I told them that I would be submitting a report on my findings, but it would be confidential as to who said what. All agreed to talk with me and were quite candid with their answers.

My client was right. All of these former employees were bright, articulate and well suited for the business of caring for people. Every one of them stated that they have high regards for their former employer. Three of eight had changed employment again since leaving my clients office. All had remained in dentistry. All reported that presently they rated their positions between good and excellent. I asked what was in their current situation that was not in their former. It was an interesting collage of answers. I could see a common thread, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

When I compiled all the answers for comparison this is what it looked like:

  • We all pull our weight, and if one person is gone, it doesn’t go unrecognized. We all understand that and never miss work unless we have to. Everyone respects each other.
  • The Doctor I’m with now goes out of his way to call attention when one of us goes the extra mile for the practice.
  • I had a hard time with my former Dr.’s assistant who had been there forever. I felt like she was “looking” for mistakes I made. When I tried to talk with Dr. about it, he said he thought I was misunderstanding her and that I needed to work it out with her. In my current office, we work as a team, and all get along.
  • First of all, I have to say I liked my former Dr. and I don’t want him to think otherwise. My good friend had an opening in her office, and she bugged me until I applied for it. Her Dr. liked me and gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. When I left my notice, it was no big deal, so it made it easier to move on.
  • The office I’m in now was having problems in their hygiene department. I took this position because it gave me an opportunity to build it back up to where it once was. Now it’s even more productive than ever. My Dr. needs me. She tells me it’s MY hygiene department.

Can you see the common thread that emerged? Your staff needs to not only have a position in your practice; they need to belong to your practice! I think the last person I interviewed said it best. The Doctor needs me! Sometimes it’s a fine line to walk, and it feels as though you can’t win for losing. You don’t want to be perceived as an intolerant or rigid manager, as you will only surround yourself with staff that won’t think for themselves. The other end of the spectrum is being apathetic or having an environment where nobody feels they would be missed or would bother to give more than the status quo.

When an employee dares to come to you with an interpersonal problem involving a staff member, it is vital to your team not to ignore it, expecting that it will be worked out. Unfortunately, and as uncomfortable as that might be for you, you are honor bound as the leader of your team to “take the bull by the horns,” sit down with both parties together and diplomatically bring up the subject. Preface it with a statement like: “I value both of you and would not want either of you to be uncomfortable while you are here working. I know that both of you always have the best intentions for the practice and want to make sure that the lines of communications are open. Let’s talk about the communication between you.” It will be difficult at first, but you have just provided a safe place for your employees to work out there differences and perhaps become better workmates for it. You have also set an example that you are not going to take sides but that you are not going just to let it go unmanaged either. Perhaps it will put everyone on notice that this is a place where we talk about what works and what doesn’t work and we shore up the areas that need it.

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