Trouble 8 1

Thursday Troubleshooter: Team morale suffers when dentist is constantly late

Aug. 1, 2013
The dentist should set a professional tone for the practice

QUESTION: Our dentist is always late every morning and coming back from lunch. His idea is that if he has a well-trained team it is OK for the boss to arrive later than he expects us to be there. What can we do to let our boss know that his lateness is not doing anything for the office morale? We too have children to get off to school in the mornings, but we are expected to ALWAYS be on time no matter what else may be going on in our personal lives. He uses taking his children to school as his early morning excuse. As for lunch, he feels that making patients wait for him makes him look more valued, or so he says.

ANSWER FROM LINDA MILES, founder of Speaking Consulting Network:
You are correct in saying that morale is affected by the leader not following the rules that he created for being on time. Show me a patient, dentist, or team member who is consistently late and I will show you a person who doesn’t really want to be there! Not only does this negatively impact office morale, it starts the mornings and afternoons off on a negative note. EVERYONE should be on time for the morning huddle, which eliminates a lot of breakdowns in communication throughout the day. Not being on time in the afternoon typically means everyone must now work later than expected because starting late creates a domino effect for the entire afternoon. In my opinion, dental team members should always think of patients first. If patients must wait 20 minutes to begin treatment, yet they have purposely scheduled the first appointment after lunch knowing they won’t have to wait, this is totally unacceptable behavior. Deliberately keeping patients waiting is not making the doctor look more valuable, as “people count up the faults of those who keep them waiting.”

ANSWER FROM DAYNA JOHNSON, founder of Rae Dental Management:
Our patients are the No. 1 priority in our practice. We do not get paid, receive referrals, or improve the patient perception of our practice if we do not value them. If the doctor is late for meetings and appointments, then patients and the team perceive that he does not value the patients. It doesn’t matter what the truth is — only the perception of the patients or the perception of the team matters.

The doctor is looked upon as the leader of the practice, and the team will always follow in the footsteps of the leader. I can understand if the doctor gets caught up in his office treatment planning and runs late for a meeting, but to run late for the morning huddle and to return from lunch late should never be the normal routine for the doctor. People in general view running late as being disorganized, and if the doctor runs late from lunch and makes the patients wait, they will not value him more but see it as the doctor does not value the patients' time.

Remember the famous saying: “Actions speak louder than words.”

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