Leaving drama at the door

March 16, 2012
Leaving outside issues at the door helps keep emotional baggage at bay. Dr. Sheri Doniger talks about how to focus on the mission of the office rather than on personal issues so you can have a more productive day with less stress.

By Sheri B. Doniger, DDS

Have you ever walked into your office and wondered “which boss” you would be seeing for the day? It’s frustrating, isn’t it? I started my career as a dental assistant. The dentist I worked for had evening hours. I went to school during the day and took the bus to the office in the evening. Every day, without fail, I called the receptionist and asked, “What is his mood today?” Her responses included fine, don’t ask, or it could go either way. What a way to start the day!

Some of us don’t have the luxury of calling a receptionist to assess the mood of the boss prior to the start of the day. We walk into whatever moods the other team members have going on that day. Depending on the treatment load, it is stressful enough trying to balance patients, disinfect the room, and stay on time.

Everyone, not just the dentist, has a life outside the office. We all have issues, good or bad, that we have to deal with during the hours we aren’t working. It’s “emotional baggage” so to speak. To minimize this emotional stuff from seeping into the office to affect the tone of the day, we must establish a protocol to alleviate any conflicts. As a team, our main purpose during the day is outstanding patient care. We can’t allow personal dynamics to enter into the patient care arena.

We have found one of the best solutions to eliminate this stress from our office is to adopt the philosophy of “leaving it at the door.” To complain all day long about a flat tire, to fight with a significant other, or to argue with a girlfriend is not productive. No matter what is happening outside, try to leave it outside. Especially in a practice of women, we make an effort to keep our conversations on the positive side. We also open the door with a smile. This sounds corny, but it works. By having a positive attitude when others come in, the entire team is ready for the day.

One way to incorporate this positive attitude into your practices is to suggest it at a team meeting. If you have a highly stressful office atmosphere, this suggestion may be something to consider. When a boss or coworker is more focused on negative internal energy, that person can’t be 100% functional. Openly discussing communication issues is a bold move, and it will lead to huge benefits for the practice. Team dynamics are more fluid when the parts work with no friction.

Leaving outside issues at the door is a great start to a great day. We can only change the things we can control. Focusing on the mission of the office rather than on issues outside the office will lead to a more productive and healthy day.

Author bio
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, is a leading dental clinician, author, educator, and consultant who currently practices dentistry in Lincolnwood, Ill. Dr. Doniger has written numerous articles on topics ranging from periodontal disease to effective communications, and has presented many lectures with an ongoing focus on women in the dental industry.