3 ways you can help eliminate staff drama in the dental office

Most people working in the dental field are unfortunately familiar with the office drama that can occur, especially since a large portion of staff members are women. To help eliminate the problem, do not get caught up in the drama.

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As I’m sure you’ve noticed, women dominate the dental industry. Awesome, right? Women rock! But there’s one major downside to this—the tendency toward drama in dental offices. I sincerely hope you don’t know what I’m talking about. That means you work for a great dental office, and you have it good. Congratulations, and I suggest you never leave!

But for most of you who are reading this, you know exactly what I mean by drama. You’ve probably worked in an office where the gossip seems to fester and the staff gets sidetracked by personal issues instead of focusing on their real purpose: helping patients.

The sad fact is, no matter how much the staff tries to hide it patients can feel the drama in the office or among team members. Patients can feel any disagreements between employees or departments, and it hurts your ability to provide top-notch customer service.

Patients can feel any disagreements between employees or departments, and it hurts your ability to provide top-notch customer service.

Here’s a true story from my office. We get at least three new patients every month who used to go to the dental office across the street, but they switch offices despite the fact they really liked the dentist. Why? Because they can’t handle the office drama—the staff whispering, making catty comments, and slamming down instruments. That’s a real shame. What’s worse is that the staff and doctor at that office probably have no idea how much their behavior is hurting their bottom line.

Now let’s talk about why this kind of behavior is prevalent in the industry. Maybe the fact that the population is mostly women really does contribute to a gossip culture, in which everyone is more concerned with what other people are doing (or not doing) than with achieving excellent work. Have you ever wondered why this is so true in our industry but not so much in others?

Some of the problem begins in dental school, where dentists learn a great deal about great dentistry but nothing at all about how to manage a staff. When they chose this field and decided to open their own dental office, most dentists probably were not thinking about having to deal with staffing and personnel management issues. In fact, most dentists would say this is the opposite of what made them excited about opening a dental office.

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Sometimes you see this lack of management savvy go to ridiculous extremes. One time I worked in a dental practice that had an oddly placed door between the two workstations at the front desk. It really did not make the front desk look right and made no sense. So on my first day, I asked why there was a door placed there. I couldn’t believe the answer. Apparently the two ladies who used to work next to each other at those desks did not get along, and so the doctor built a door between them so they didn’t have to see each other. I kid you not!

So now that we know how harmful drama can be, how do we eliminate it in the dental office? I could write an entire book on this topic, but for this article I’ll offer three tips about what you can do to begin eliminating drama from your dental office.

1. When you see drama occurring, don’t become part of it. You can’t expect to throw rocks if you live in a glass house. If you don’t like the gossiping and whispering, then the first way to stop it is for you to avoid partaking in it. This might be hard to do at first, because the chatter might be juicy and fun. But the truth is, if you allow yourself to be dragged in, it will never stop.

Learn to walk away. If you see others whispering or talking about someone else in the office, lead by example and walk away. Do not be part of it. Find something else productive to do. Find a patient to talk with instead, and show that you’re above the petty stuff. Sure, it would be excellent if you could tell the gossipers that their behavior really doesn’t help the team and they should stop, but that kind of confrontation is hard for many of us, so the next best thing is to walk away.

2. Do your job well. Often the issues between team members are based on the fact that someone is not pulling their weight, which means others feel they must step up to compensate. Therefore, if you do your job well, there will be no reason for anyone to talk about you or your job performance.

3. Replace negative with positive. Most of the drama and gossip in the office is about negative things, which is why they seem juicy and interesting, but in the long run this attitude does not help anyone. In fact most of the time it hurts others. In order to “be the change” in the office, replace the negative energy with good energy. Tell a coworker how great she did with a particular procedure or how impressed you were with how she handled a patient.

Not only will you shock and awe your coworkers, but you will also likely be noticed by the doctor or office manager, which is not a bad thing at all. Think about it. When it is time for someone on staff to be promoted, who do you think they will pick, Negative Nancy or you?

Laura Hatch is the founder of Front Office Rocks, a leader in online front office training. Laura has worked with her husband, Dr. Hatch, to start and grow two extremely successful dental practices (one in Baltimore and a current office in San Diego) to million dollar, fee-for-services offices that focus on exceptional customer service and average 80 new patients per month. As the leading authority on dental front office training, Laura has developed training methods that consist of established ideas and practical training that can be easily implemented into any office. She can be reached at Laura@FrontOfficeRocks.com.

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