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Thursday Troubleshooter: Pay for dental office manager agreed upon, paid, then abruptly decreased

Dec. 6, 2018
This dental office manager found a new position she was pleased with, until the agreed-upon pay was suddenly changed. What can she do?

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QUUESTION: I interviewed for an office manager position with the office “consultant.” (She’s a person paid to help the dentist make decisions. She’s not with a company.) I negotiated pay and hours with her. Two months later, the dentist/owner told me he did not agree to that amount and he wanted to renegotiate and decrease my pay, after paying me the correct amount on three payrolls!

I’m obviously furious because (1) we already went through negotiations, (2) I waited to have the job offer finalized before giving notice at my previous office, (3) this is dishonest, (4) I haven’t had enough time to even make a dent in organizing this extremely untrained staff and office with inaccurate accounts and charts, (5) I have since found out this office has high turnover, and (6) I did not get anything in writing regarding my salary.

I almost just want to quit and forget about giving a two-week notice. What should I do?

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, founder of Front Office Rocks:
Wow, what a tough situation to be in, and I’m sorry that you’re having to deal with this. I wish I could give you amazing advice that will make this go away, but I really think that you’re between a rock and a hard place with this one. There are two areas that I want to address in my advice to you.

The first is to get legal counsel to find out what grounds you have to stand on. I’m not an HR or legal expert and every state is different, but I would think that the fact that they already paid you at this certain rate would have some grounds to show they owe you this amount. I would think that they would also need some sort of documentation stating why they are changing your pay. Again, reach out to someone in your state that knows the laws. Also, a lesson for you no matter what happens in this office is to make sure that from here on out you get a letter with the offer in writing.

However, no matter whether you win the pay rate issue or not, I personally think that you have a larger problem to deal with here. It concerns me that the “consultant” feels that she has the right to hire you, yet the doctor can change the rate after the fact. This shows that the management and communication of this office is not great, so I’m not surprised to hear that they have a turnover issue.

I would suggest that you take the high road here and try to clean up this issue by requesting a meeting with the doctor or with both the doctor and consultant to discuss what happened. See if there is a way you can get them to recognize their lack of communication, how this impacts you, and why they should pay you the rate you were promised. Watch and listen to how they respond and see if you can come to an agreement that everyone is happy with. Unfortunately, it is my guess that this may solve your initial issue, however, it will not fix the bigger issues that are going on in this practice. I think that you might be up against doctor versus consultant in future scenarios, so please recognize this and then determine whether now is a good time to make a decision that is best for you and your career.

Good luck and I’m sorry to hear this happened to you!

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