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Thursday Troubleshooter: This dental assistant has not had a raise in 8 years

March 28, 2019
This dental assistant asked for a raise, and nine months later she still has not received an answer. What gives?
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QUESTION: I started working in my current office in 1993. I was one of two assistants in a very busy office. There were two doctors, but their practices were separate, as were their employees, except for the two front desk employees.

My doctor retired eight years ago, and three years later the two front desk employees retired. Before my doctor retired, he sold his practice to another doctor, and several of our patients left the practice. The new doctor wasn’t really busy enough for two assistants, and he wouldn’t let me do the expanded duties that I was used to.

When the front desk people retired, the doctors asked if I would consider moving to the front. I agreed. The doctor who I have never worked for gave me benefits at 50%, and the other doctor agreed to do the same. A second person was hired to help at the front desk.

I have not received a raise since I worked for the boss who retired. I asked for a raise nine months ago and have not received one, and I’ve been told by both doctors that they “haven’t forgotten” me. I do think that since I’ve been here since 1993 the doctors should not even have to think about giving me a raise.

As soon as I can afford to, I’m considering going part time. I feel taken advantage of. Plus, I’ve told the doctors several times that if their assistant is out, they don’t have to call a temp, they have me, which I consider a big bonus for them. But they never ask.

Your longevity obviously makes you a valuable staff member in the practice, but since I have not seen any numbers, it may be possible that you have reached what the owners consider the top of your pay grade for your job class. It’s a challenge for business owners to continue to keep staff members with many years of longevity feeling like they are valued, and it sounds like they are not doing a very good job of that with you.

If they feel they cannot give you a raise, they could do other things such as give you more paid time off or design some sort of bonus opportunity. I can only speculate why they do not tap into your assisting expertise from time to time, but it may be that they feel you are most valuable at the business desk. After all, the business desk is the true nerve center of the practice and if systems lag there the clinical area will be negatively affected. Either way, you should ask them outright why they don’t let you assist from time to time.

The fact that they have procrastinated this long tells me that either they don’t feel you deserve a raise, or they don’t feel the practice can support any extra weight on the practice salary expense. They may feel that if they give you a raise, they will have to give everyone else a raise too.

Please believe me when I say that I sympathize with you. Asking for a raise is a frustrating and humiliating experience, and they at least owe you some kind of explanation. Also, they may be like the old cliché that says, “stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.” If they continue to lowball staff pay, they will hurt their productivity by having to deal with constant staff turnover. I hope you receive a raise, otherwise they’re going to miss you when you’re gone.

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