© Fizkes | Dreamstime.com
Late For Work

Myth busters for dental assistants: Everyone needs to work around my schedule

Dec. 18, 2020
Nothing can ruin a workday faster than a coworker who is constantly late or always leaves early. How should you handle these disruptive people before they make your job more stressful? Here are some things to try.

Everyone in this office had better work around my schedule. I’ve got things to do and they should know that. Right?


Does it drive you crazy when one of your coworkers constantly arrives late or must always leave early? What is up with that? C’mon guys, that puts the burden of setting up every day or cleaning up every night on whoever is left behind, and that’s not fair! This will build animosity between team members faster than anything else.

In dentistry, we depend on each other. Some professions work independently, so other people’s schedules don’t affect them. But we are part of a team, and we need one another every day to keep the workflow smooth.

When you take a job, you accept the hours and location, and you make a commitment to be there when you are needed. Yes, we all have families who we are deeply committed to, but taking a position in a dental office that doesn’t “work for your schedule” is totally unfair to everyone you work with.

I know that things happen occasionally and I’m not referring to those times here. But I’ve worked with chronically late people before and the strain it puts on the team is huge. Trust me when I say, if you’re the one who comes in late or leaves early every day, the team is talking about you, and it’s not pretty. Someone’s entire day can be ruined by those who don’t have enough courtesy to wake up a few minutes earlier and get to work on time.

How to handle the constantly late coworker

  • I’m a firm believer in speaking to that person directly. Don’t go to management if you haven’t tried to find a solution first.
  • Ask the person to text you if they are going to be late so that you can get in earlier to get things ready. When they must constantly text you, it might make them aware of the burden they’re causing. This is a great way to document their tardiness.
  • If speaking to them directly does not lead to the desired results, then you may have to ask management to help.
  • Establish consequences. Rules without consequences are nothing.
  • Respect what the management and employee decide to do. You don’t know a person’s situation, and they may actually have a good reason for their tardiness. If someone’s hours need to be adjusted, then you need to be aware of that. We need to respect people’s privacy. But team members deserve respect as well, and it’s necessary to keep everyone in the loop about what their schedules will be.  
  • I like to get to the office early and give myself plenty of time to set up for the day. This makes my day better. If it’s frustrating for you to deal with the late person every day, then get the OK from management to come in early so that you have time to get organized.

What to do if a coworker constantly leaves early

If someone must always leave early, talk to them about how they can help around the office before they leave, such as vacuuming, getting the autoclave started, setting up the ops for the next day’s first patients, or taking out the trash. You know, all of the things you’d love to do before you leave but you just run out of time.

I have learned in this profession that we need to work together. There must be give-and-take in any situation. For example, if you’re the cook in your family, maybe someone else can agree to clean up. This can work as long as you communicate, speak before your blood boils, and work together to find a solution. That can turn out to be the best working relationship you’ve ever had. It begins with addressing the issue, and then everyone working together!

To read more, visit DentistryIq and search "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 an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states.