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Lazy Coworker

Myth busters for dental assistants: Handling lazy coworkers

Aug. 20, 2020
It's OK to feel anger toward your coworkers who don't do their share. You end up picking up the slack, and that's no fair. But you can't contain that anger for long. Here's what you can do to take care of the lazy coworker problem.

When you have a lazy coworker, the best thing to do is to also be lazy also so you don’t have to do all the work. Right? Wrong!

When you have a lazy coworker, the best thing to do is the hardest thing to do, and that is to step up your game and work harder!

I know that may sound silly, and many of you are probably rolling your eyes, but hear me out.

First of all, we are part of a team, therefore we’re supposed to cover for one another and pitch in where needed. If you’re not doing that, then shame on you!

I know it’s beyond frustrating to have a coworker who hides when things get crazy, doesn’t pitch in when sterilization is falling over, and leaves early and arrives late, but that speaks volumes about that person’s work ethic, not yours! I know it’s easy to become so frustrated that you just want to give up. “If they can get away with it, then why can’t I?” “I’m not getting paid to do two jobs, so I’m just going to stay in my lane.” That’s a negative attitude, and nobody has time for that. Our offices need us, and we want them to succeed, so we have to jump in and make things happen.

How to take care of the issue

The bad attitude of your coworker does need to be addressed. You have to communicate, or you’ll bust inside. The person will make for some long days and make you not want to come into work. When you put your feet on the floor in the morning, you should love what you’re about to do for the day and love the place you’re about to go. You should not dread what takes place each day.

First, you can try talking to the person. I think that’s always the best approach. However, do it immediately because if you let it build up, not only will the person think they can get away with it, but you’ll build up that animosity and when it comes out, it may not be pretty.

Don’t come at the person harshly. Take a deep breath and approach them with an attitude of, “Hey, did you know . . ?” Be sure you listen to the person. It’s not all about you, and maybe there’s a reason for their behavior that you have no clue about, so give them the benefit of the doubt.

If talking to the person fails more than once, you’ll need to bring up the issue to your doctor or office manager. Make a list before you talk to the doctor or office manager; don’t go in blindly saying this and that. Back up what you have to say with facts—the person was late this day, or left the team holding the bag that day. Don’t say “me, me, me.” Speak in terms of how it’s affecting the practice and use examples of when a patient had to wait because the coworker, or you didn’t have the instruments you needed when you needed them. Don’t say, “I have to work harder,” because that won’t get you anywhere.

If you don’t do something about this situation, one of several things can happen: you’ll remain frustrated and hate your job, you’ll want to leave the practice rather than tell someone your frustrations, or you’ll slack off and get in trouble for doing poor work. It’s just not worth it. People sometimes make the mistake of putting up with things because they hate confrontation, or they think it will get better on its own. All that does is make people miserable!

Finally, when all else fails, it might be time to look for another place to work. This is the option I truly don’t like because you’ve spent so much time emotionally invested in where you work. You love the coworkers—except that one—you love the hours, how close it is to home, and more. But if you aren’t happy, does any of that really matter? If your answer is no, then get to work on that résumé. But if the answer is yes, then find a way to make it work!

When you not only do your job, but go above and beyond, you are establishing your own work ethic, creating your own reputation as a hard worker, and proving to everyone, including yourself, that you can do anything. That will make you look good when it’s time for a raise. But that’s not all. Having a good work ethic sets you apart as a leader and provides you with satisfaction. Having a more positive day leads to having a better day!

You have the power to change your circumstances. What are you going to do about it?

To read more "Myth busters for dental assistants" by Tija Hunter, visit dentistryiq.com and search for "myth busters for dental assistants." 

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, CDSO, CDSH, MADAA, is a member and current vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. Tija is the editor of Dental Assisting Digest and contributes to Dental Economics magazine. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and the author of seven continuing education courses. She is an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. She can be reached at [email protected].