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How to Treat the Disease of Dental Office Drama

Drama is a fungus and it grows like one, so it makes sense that failure to control office drama will lead it to grow even more.

What can you do about it? Let’s look at it clinically, like we do with periodontal disease. First, we have to acknowledge that it is a disease. I once read a quote that said it’s easier to dam a river than to stop drama in an office. The first step with any disease is to acknowledge you have it and that it’s not going to get better on its own.

The second step in dealing with any infection or illness is to become knowledgeable about the disease and decide if you want to fight it. You might be thinking, of course we have to fight it! But, think about it, sometimes people recognize they have an illness and decide to just let it take over their life. Instead of actively trying to fight it, they just give into it. I’m not making any judgement about this choice, but honestly, if this is how you are approaching the issue of dental office drama, then you can’t be helped. If you have resolved to just let the disease hang around and take over, or maybe you are content to just find ways to keep it under control without treating the illness, then okay for you… but just know, it is only a matter of time until you will have to give in to that disease because it will take over the entire dental office.

If you are not a person who wants to give into it and you are willing to recognize you have a problem you want to fight, then it is time to reflect on how you landed in this situation and what you can do about it.

  • What things have you ignored that allowed this disease to grow?
  • What could you have done better to avoid or eliminate it?
  • How did your specific behaviors allowed this disease to grow or continue?

There are two ways drama infects dental offices.

Either it was brought in by an outside factor, such as a new employee, or it grew from within due to other circumstances, such as chaos or stress. Regardless of how it started, the reason office drama grows and becomes dominant is when it initially started, no one put a stop to it. Most dentists tend to ignore drama when they see it flare up, hoping it will just go away. Or in some cases, it is so well hidden that dentists don’t see it because it does not happen around them. Office managers might also ignore it or—even worse—become part of it. On the flip side, some office managers can see that drama is a problem in their office, but without the support of the owner, managers will have very little success at getting drama out of the culture. It doesn’t matter what the catalyst was – it is vital to get rid of it.

The owner and leadership team need to acknowledge their part of allowing drama in and letting it grow to the size it is today. Taking responsibility is the first step to changing the culture.

Once you figure out how you got here, you can gain skills to help you change things going forward. It’s necessary not only to eliminate the disease you have, but also to change your future path so that the disease can’t come back. Bad habits and culture have pushed you to this point. With some training and focus, you can stop those things now so they won’t reappear again.

10 steps to begin eliminating drama in your office.

Consider this top 10 list to be your treatment plan recommendation for the health of your office culture and the overall well-being of your practice.

1. Management must buy into recognizing there is a problem and agree on the importance of getting it out of the office as quickly as possible.

2. Write policies to ensure employees understand there is no room for drama in the office.

3. Host a meeting for everyone on the team to discuss how drama has taken hold, as well as the new changes that will occur.

4. Change the office culture so that positivity flows and negativity is not allowed.

5. Help the team with “how-to’s.”

Show your employees specific ways they should handle others when gossip and drama comes their way. Many times, people have not been taught what to do to stop it, and teaching them now will play a significant role in extinguishing it.

6. Work at clearing drama as a team.

An approach of one person against the world cannot put an end to office drama. The team should all work as one to change the culture.

7. Manage personality types, because not everyone is the same.

With issues as sensitive as this, personalized meetings and support may be necessary to help everyone evolve in a new way.

8. Handle any upsets that happen. There will still be upsets and issues that arise, as we work in a very stressful environment.

It is important that when those issues arise, they are handled quickly and appropriately in accordance with the new policies on minimizing drama.

9. Handle troublemakers.

Sometimes office drama builds when one person or a few people instigate it. These people will not be interested in shifting to a drama-free culture along with the rest of the office. If those team members continue to cause issues, even after trained and counseled according to the new policies, they might need to find an opportunity in another office where drama is still an accepted part of the culture.

10. Celebrate success!

When the environment has settled down and everyone is working as one, not against one another, be sure to acknowledge how the team reached this goal together. Then remind the team of the importance of keeping the culture drama-free, and continually monitor the environment to ensure that the fungus of office drama does not have an opportunity to creep back in.

Related Dental Training Resources:

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.