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Thursday Troubleshooter: Coworker driving hygienist crazy with her constant gabbing

Oct. 31, 2019
This dental hygienist has tried many tactics to let her coworker know she doesn't want to listen to her small talk, but she is not picking up on the signals. What can she do?

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QUESTION: I’ve been a dental hygienist for 30 years and have been in my current job for more than 11 years. I currently work with a hygienist who has been here three years. She is constantly in my room talking about her life in detail, and I have no interest. She has a lot of extra time because she does super quick prophys. I will be trying to write my notes on the computer, and she will come in and just start rambling. I’ve tried ignoring her and not making eye contact. I’ve try walking away but she follows me. I’ve told her I’m working but she keeps on talking. She does not pick up on normal social cues. I’ve never worked with anyone so irritating. I don’t know what to do except look for a new job. I don’t want to leave this job because overall it’s a good place to work. Please help! 

ANSWER FROM JAMIE COLLINS, RDH, founder of MyDentalEducator.com:
Just like you can’t pick your family, you can’t always pick your work family. At times it’s difficult in such a small office full of women with many different personalities, and at times it can feel like a lonely place. Is she a relatively new hygienist? If so, maybe she admires you and is looking to you for guidance and just doesn’t know how to connect. Is she coming into your operatory to help turn your room to make it easier for you while she’s trying to make small talk?

I work in an office where the other hygienist and I have zero in common other than being women and hygienists. However, we share a mutual professionalism and respect and we make small talk to be kind to each other. I bet your coworker is as uncomfortable as you are if you’re ignoring her and walking away. I would bet the other members of the team also feel the tension. 

I suggest changing the subject and sharing something about yourself. Try to find a mutual interest or a different subject to discuss. If so far these are one-sided conversations with only her talking, she has nothing to talk about other than herself. If her life revolves around her boyfriend and children, she may be desperate for interaction with other women outside of the home. Take a chance and open yourself up because this might just surprise you. If you still can’t handle her, then maybe you do need to look elsewhere. Just remember that you can’t guarantee who you’re going to be working with and you may find yourself in the same situation. Good luck! 

ANSWER FROM JANA BERGHOFF, consultant at Jameson Management:
I suggest you tell this coworker that you are so patient focused during appointment times that you really can't spend time in personal conversation. With all that is required during an appointment, tell her that you really need all the time during and between appointments to take care of your patients’ needs. Unless the conversation relates to patients, tell her you really can't give any of her conversations your full attention. If appropriate, I would then suggest having personal conversations during lunch when you can both focus and you can give your coworker the attention she craves. 

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Team Troubleshooter

This weekly column on DentistryIQ features questions from everyday people who work in dental practices, who have issues they would like addressed by the experts. Those who regularly take the time to answer questions include Rebecca Boartfield, Patti DiGangi, Dr. Chris Salierno, Laura Hatch, Karen Daw, Jill Townsend, Lisa Marie Spradley, Shelley Renee, Judy Kay Mausolf, Robin Morrison, Paul Edwards ... and the list is growing.

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