Thursday Troubleshooter: What to do about poorly dressed dental team
This dental team member is worried about the appearance of her fellow staff members. There's no set uniform policy in the practice, and no one seems to care much about how they dress.
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QUESTION: I have a question about a proper uniform for a clinical person in a dental office. What do you recommend? Our clinical team has uniforms, we don’t wear street clothes, but they’re rather haphazard. We sort of have guidelines to follow that were communicated to us when we started our jobs. The office uniform policy is not really spelled out anywhere, and I would like to approach the dentist/boss about updating the policy.
I’m one of two dental assistants, and I keep my uniform appropriate and clean. Some of my colleagues do not, but it’s not my place to say anything to them. They come to work “in uniform” but looking half put together and wrinkled and not tucked in, and I think their appearance is hurting the image of the practice. Thanks for any help you can offer.
ANSWER FROM JANET HAGERMAN, Janet Hagerman Consulting:
Studies repeatedly conclude that we humans typically judge each other within seconds of meeting. How often do we prematurely criticize someone based on their looks? This is unfair, but true. This is particularly important in the dental office where patients already have negative images (of expensive and painful treatment) to overcome. How you look is a preview to your patients of what’s to come next. A clean, tidy, detail-oriented dental practice, or a sloppy dental practice? It is difficult, and wrong, to expect patients to trust a team and accept treatment when the team dresses as if they don’t care.
Your patients judge you all the time, and in a split second. If you want your dental practice to be successful, it is imperative to put your best selves forward. This includes what you wear and how you wear it. The power of presentation is enormous and unavoidable.
I like for the team to look coordinated. This can be color coordinated scrubs (and lab coats when appropriate) for the clinical team, and nice looking coordinating jackets or blazers for the front desk. Personally, I prefer solids as opposed to prints as they seem more professional. There should be a dress code outlining this in the practice manual. I’ve discovered a new company that makes great looking, OSHA compliant dental/medical attire called Twice as Nice.
The dress code can be the dentist/owner decision, or he or she can solicit the help of the staff. This can be discussed at a team meeting. Additionally, pay attention to details such as clean, closed toe shoes, manicured nails, neat hair styles, minimal piercings visible, conservative makeup, clothes appropriately tucked in, and an overall neat appearance. The bottom line is for all to look like a polished and professional team. It is totally appropriate for the dentist/owner or office manager to address this topic with a non-compliant team member and request that the person comply with the dress code. You want your image to say, “We look the best because we are the best!”
According to image expert Janice Hurley, “People meeting you for the first time decide in less than a 10th of a second how confident you are, how approachable, your level of education, your social economic status, and how attractive you are, all within the blink of an eye.” This is the power of presentation. It is dressing your best for who you are and what you want to achieve for any given activity. In dentistry it means presenting a tidy and professional look.
People are overlooked all the time, for job opportunities, promotions, acceptance to educational institutions, social and professional groups, and dating opportunities, because of poor presentation. Dental practices are overlooked all the time because of a poor image. This almost instant judgment is not logical or fair, but it seems to be the way we’re wired.
It would be a shame if your great skills and talents go unrecognized and unappreciated from the lack of your best presentation. I suggest you set aside a time to discuss your concerns with your dentist/boss, and show him or her this article. Your patients, your practice, your team, and you deserve your best presentation, your best “blooming,” to set the stage for your great work!
For more information on this topic, read my blog, The Power of Presentation.
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