Do you have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed? Each week the experts on Team Troubleshooter will tackle those issues and provide you with answers. Send questions to [email protected].
QUESTION: I am a hygienist with 25 years of experience. I work with a dental assistant who graduated one year ago, and she makes me feel as though I'm not a professional. She asked the doctor if she could get her anesthesia assisting permit, which I just completed. She told me that since she was the manager of the back of the office, she is at the same level as the office manager. She’s a nice person but I need to talk to her because it’s bothering me that she doesn't respect my degree. What should I say to her?
ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, founder of Front Office Rocks:
It sounds like there’s some tension between you and the assistant, to say the least. There are usually three reasons why this tension arises. Hopefully with my suggestions you can figure this out and get it fixed.
1) Communication on your part—You need to sit down and have a one-on-one with this assistant. She might feel like you two don’t see eye to eye, and maybe she worked in an environment before where the way to handle things was to go to the owner and discuss her thoughts. When you talk with her find out if she has specific issues with you. Ask her how she thinks you two can work together better. Maybe just bringing this to her attention will help her realize what she’s doing. Be clear that you do not appreciate what she’s doing and that you welcome her coming to you directly before going behind your back.
2) Find out when the issue started—Ask when she started feeling this way toward you. She might have had a bad experience in a past position that she’s carrying to this office. Or maybe you rubbed her the wrong way early on and she’s carrying a grudge that she may or may not even realize she’s doing. People don't normally have issues with others without a certain event to start it. If it comes up that you did something that she’s been holding on to, apologize and ask to start fresh. If she has issues from the past, remind her again that you would like her to come to you directly to discuss things.
3) Your turn to talk with doctor—If this doesn’t get fixed after you’ve tried to handle it on your own, it might be time to call a meeting with the doctor. I’m not saying this assistant is a bad person, but a rational person would stop whatever makes another person upset. Make sure you keep notes of your conversations with the assistant to present to the dentist so you can accurately relay the information what you've tried. Hopefully the assistant will recognize that if she wants to avoid trouble or losing her job, your meeting with the dentist means you're serious and she had better be a better team player. Good luck!
ANSWER FROM KYLE SUMMERFORD, editor of Dental Office Manager Digest:
Time and time again there are struggles of power and hierarchy in dental practices. In most cases like this I suggest requesting a staff meeting. These meetings lead to the discussion of issues amongst the masses. One-on-one confrontations or private discussions usually don’t resolve anything and sometimes lead to behind the back “He said, she said” rumors.
Staff meetings bring matters to the forefront and help everyone in the office understand each other’s concerns. Issues like yours put the well-being of the practice in jeopardy and should be discussed as a team to extinguish any animosity before it leads to unprofessionalism in front of patients. I suggest speaking to the office manager to organize an office meeting immediately, and if you don’t get anywhere with your office manager make sure to meet with the dentist/practice owner and express your concerns, but do this only as a last resort.
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