Dental Assistant Smile

Manage UP – 3 ways to manage your difficult boss in the dental office

March 18, 2014
Try not to let a bad boss in your dental office get to you

“How’s your boss?” For some of us, the answer depends what day it is. Do you have a boss who gets on your nerves? Who always seems to nitpick at everything you do? Yep, I’ve had my fair share of those. I always thought these bosses had control issues, but maybe not. Maybe I was the one who needed to get in control and learn how to manage … UP.

You’re wondering what I am referring to, right? Here it is. Some people were not born to be managers. Some are born with the managing skill, and others can learn it. One boss I had was a micromanager. She always got “in the way,” quizzing me about my patients to satisfy her own curiosity. It wasn’t about supervision. It was about control. She had issues and wanted to make sure that I knew who was in charge. Honestly, I didn’t think that was good patient care. I asked her to let me do my job and not to undermine me in front of the patients, but she just wouldn’t listen.

So, what can be done about this?

Ignore the obnoxious behavior — This only works some of the time. I know, detach. But it isn’t always easy to do so. Sometimes the rudeness just gets under my skin. Instead, I told myself “Oh well” over and over again. It helped me detach. I kept my cool, and her petty behavior didn’t penetrate my emotional well being. You have to be careful to not go overboard with detaching. The last thing you want to do is stop caring about your job. Instead, stop giving attention, time, and energy to the obnoxious behavior.

Confront the behavior — Tread carefully on this one. You never know if it will backfire. Instead of a hostile confrontation, say something like, “I feel very embarrassed when you made fun of me in front of a patient.” “I enjoy working with you and want to know if I may have upset you.” “I want to find a way for us to work together as we are on the same page about wanting what is best for patients and the practice.” Talk slowly. Make good eye contact. Don’t have this confrontation with patients or other staff around. Take the boss into a private room and shut the door.

Get help — Talk to the dentist or another person who can help you address this issue with your boss.I am definitely not someone who believes in ratting someone out, but sometimes you have to look at the big picture. If you can’t make progress, you need to take some action. I had this problem a couple of times. My boss was nasty to me and made my life a nightmare. I hated going to work. Finally, I approached her boss and said, “I need some advice. My boss is constantly undermining me and making my patients very uncomfortable, and I can’t seem to get her to stop this behavior. How would you recommend I handle it?” When you pose it as a question and that you need advice, you’re letting management know what is going on, and also saying that you’re trying to resolve the problem. Face it, if a boss wants to get rid of you, he or she will find a way. The only way you can protect yourself is a paper trail that either you or management creates. My problem got solved immediately. I think the dentist had a little talk with my boss. Hallelujah!

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The point is to encourage you to address and resolve problems as soon as possible. Problems don’t go away on their own. Sometimes you can try ignoring behavior, and if those in the wrong realize that they aren’t getting to you, that sometimes works. If it doesn’t, confront the behavior using “I feel” statements. When you use words like “I” instead of “you,” it takes the sting out of what you’re actually saying. And if that doesn’t work, get help. You need to protect your career and reputation. I’ve been fired for things I didn’t done. Sad, but true. So, take the high road and make sure to protect yourself.

Bottom line — you can manage UP by behaving in the most appropriate manner. After all, you are a professional. If you have challenges with your boss, drop me an email. You aren’t alone.

Lisa Newburger, LISWS/aka Diana Directive, provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. Check out Diana’s webpage at