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What you might not want to hear about your workplace

June 16, 2022
It's tough to find good people for your dental office, but could you actually be part of the problem? That's a tough thing to face. Answer some questions to find out.

Never in my life have I heard about so many no-shows regarding working interviews. What is up with that? I have an idea, but you may not like it. 

First, yes, there are some pretty irresponsible people out there and maybe they’re just lazy. Humans can be like that, and all I can say is, whew! Did they ever do me a favor! We don’t want those lazy people working in our office anyway. 

What you may not want to hear

But now I’ll discuss something you may not want to think about—maybe, just maybe, you’re the problem. What is your office’s reputation? What does your office culture say about you? 

Answer a few questions and see how you do. 

  • Have you failed to pay any employee their bonus or earned paid time off?
  • Have you held a working interview and never paid the person? (By law you must pay them.)
  • Have you had an employee leave the office under negative circumstances?
  • Is your office doing everything correctly for infection control?
  • What is your office culture like?
  • Is there much in-office bickering?
  • How open is office communication?
  • What is the doctor’s or management’s treatment of team members like?

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These are tough questions, aren’t they? Sometimes you need to take a good hard look at who you are and what is happening in your own space in order to grow and be better. Remember, even in big cities the dental world is pretty small and bad news travels faster than good news. Word can get around among dental professionals when things aren’t perfect somewhere. 

As I scan social media to learn about the concerns of dental assistants, I hear some pretty horrific stories. While there are two sides to every story, there is always some truth to what is being said. 

  • “I did a working interview and never got paid.”
  • “You won’t believe the lack of infection control that goes on there.”
  • “When I gave my notice, they made me leave that day and never paid me my vacation or bonus.”
  • “The doctor doesn’t communicate well.”
  • “The office manager has her favorites, and those people get away with murder.” 

Although we don’t want to entertain the idea that we might be responsible for the no-shows, we have to look at the possibility and what we can do about it. When our house isn’t in order, word gets around fast! A potential employee may have a great interview and then bam! They don’t show up for the working interview and all attempts to reach them fail. Is it possible after their introduction they got word that your office isn’t the best place to work? 

Many people are nonconfrontational, so they won’t call to tell you they don’t want to work in your office. They assume you’ll ask why if they call, so they just ditch you. Is this right? No, but they don’t know how to handle the situation, so they don’t. They’re only getting one side of the story and that’s not fair, but it’s what’s happening out there. 

What’s the solution? 

You can strive to make your reputation a great one. Pay for the working interview and pay what is due to former employees. Address the issues within your practice and always follow up on your word. “I was told after 90 days that I’d have a review and receive a raise. It’s been six months and nothing.” Can’t hand out raises? Think about adding more benefits such as paying for uniforms, offering more PTO, and being more flexible with time off. You may think that what you’re currently offering is fair. But check around with friends and see what they’re doing that’s working for them that you could try in your practice.  

A bad office reputation certainly is not the case for every no-show, however, it’s true in many cases. Look at what you’re offering, your culture, your mission, and the issues that need to be addressed within the practice. This is not just for hiring purposes, but for a positive and more productive working environment as well. 

Is all of this going to stop negative talk in the dental community? No, nothing will, because there will always be two sides to every story. But it will decrease the negativity and leave your office with a much better working environment. And that’s never a bad thing!

About the Author

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA

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

Updated January 12, 2024