Handling Dental Staff Issues Before They Get Out of Hand

Not all dental team members are always going to get along or see eye-to-eye. But the important thing is to keep the peace on the team and to nip team members’ disagreements in the bud before they get out of hand.

Nothing should stand in the way of excellent dental patient care.

As an owner or office manager, your biggest responsibility aside from patient care is to manage and motivate the team.

Your employees are the ones that will go the extra mile for your patients or not, and whether they do or not is often based on how they feel about their position and work environment.

If the team does not feel valued, appreciated, or challenged at work, they stop focusing on taking care of patients.

They instead start to focus on themselves, their coworkers, and how others can “do better,” which is not good for the team as a whole. This is how gossip starts in the dental office.

When turmoil arises, it needs to be handled immediately and effectively, otherwise, it grows like a fungus.

When employees focus on anything other than giving patients the best possible care, they put their energy in the wrong place.

They worry about what other employees are doing or not doing rather than trying to improve their own performance. They talk with other employees about how the office should run better or they complain about things that make them unhappy.

Trouble begins when they put their attention on the wrong targets. If it’s not controlled and stopped by management, then the negative behavior will continue.

Even those who were not initially involved will be negatively affected by it. They will eventually either join in on the turmoil, feed the flames, or quit your office to get away from it.

Of course, this can happen in any business, but in my years of experience with dental offices, I’ve noticed that owners and office managers in our industry tend to handle this problem the wrong way.

How do you stop negativity in your dental practice?

  • Remind team members about your office policies and that this poor behavior can damage the team as a whole. For some employees, this talk is all it takes to extinguish the negativity.
  • Refocus your staff’s attention on office goals and consider holding fun challenges to provide a positive incentive for meeting goals.
  • Take more definitive actions, such as privately handling the instigator of this behavior and making it very clear that this does not align with his or her job duties or managers’ expectations. The employee might need to be directly instructed to avoid gossiping or complaining to avoid harm to the team and his or her own career.
  • Cut your losses. Very rarely does it come to this point, but if passive attempts and direct contact do not stop the behavior, it might be time to accept that the instigator is doing more harm than good in your office.

It is very important as an office manager or doctor to make sure that you’re aware of things like this going on in the office and that you nip it in the bud as quickly as possible.

The dental office is the type of environment where this kind of thing is going to rise up now and then, because of the nature of people working closely with each other.

Each time you handle it effectively, you will gain additional respect from your team and ensure that your patients’ care will remain the focus of everyone in the office.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.