Slacking In Dental Office

How to get rid of the “slacker” in your dental practice

June 16, 2014
If this problem person is making your blood boil, here's how to get rid of the dental office slacker

You come to work five days a week and work VERY hard. You consider yourself a true professional. But unfortuately, there is one thorn in your side. No matter what you do, this thorn gets under your skin. It frustrates you beyond belief, and you find your blood pressure catapulting until you feel like you’ll blow a gasket. I think you know what I’m talking about – the office slacker.

According to, the definition of slacker is, “A person who evades his or her duty or work.”

I worked with a receptionist once who was, quite frankly, useless. OK, she wasn’t useless, but that was how I felt about her since she did everything humanly possible to get out of doing her job. She didn’t care. She just put in her 40 hours, tried to make everyone miserable, and left on time at the end of the day, no matter what. She was a family friend of the dentist, and she was always able to cover up her behavior when the dentist was around. I think that drove me more nuts than anything else. She got away with it.

What do you do with a “colleague” (I’m being oh-so-kind using that word) who doesn’t pull her weight? A “colleague” who tries to get out of doing her job and instead, blames you for her mistakes?

Do you go on social media and kvetch? Nah. That could cause problems for you down the road. (Don’t be naïve. When you’re interviewing for a job, your Facebook page is scrutinized. Don’t think because you have privacy settings that you will keep potential employers from seeing this kind of stuff. I’ve mastered the art of “creeping” through other people’s contacts in order to bypass security. Yes people, it is very possible, even for someone with limited computer skills!)

What about snitching on her? Well, good luck. That could backfire. If the individual is a close, personal friend of the dentist, you have no chance with snitching. You might end up losing your own job by setting up a hostile work environment, where YOU are the one identified as being the problem.

How about confronting her? This usually backfires as well. People who avoid doing work also spend mucho energy making sure they don’t get caught. I worked in one practice with a secretary who played games on the computer all day long. (You would think she would be good at them, what with all the time she put into playing the games, but she wasn’t.) Whenever someone walked up to her, she’d change the screen so the person couldn’t see what she was doing. Her work backed up. She didn’t care. There was always an excuse. Now, I’m not saying this is the best way to handle this, but one day I dismantled the games on her computer. She didn’t have the skills to figure this out, and she foolishly asked me, “Was the dentist monitoring what I do on my computer because I can’t pull up the games?” My response? “Absolutely! I’m sure she was.” (OK, I’m not promoting lying, but it did feel good!)

My point is, get creative, yet protect yourself.
• Start a paper trail. Keep track of date, time, who was present, and what happened. When you have enough, you can share it with your manager.
• Emailing your requests is a great way to track things. This way, it cannot be denied that she received a request. How many times has the person denied being asked to do something? Now you have proof.
• Don’t get angry. Let it go. You just have to do the best at what you have. If you’re having trouble with that, seek out your manager. Also, it’s good if more than one employee lets the manager know there’s a problem. It’s hard for a manager to ignore when at least two employees are reporting a problem.
• Be careful. Politics play out in both large and small practices. Know the lay of the land. If you think it will hurt you in some way, then let it go. You may think that’s strange advice, but it really isn’t. It’s smart advice. Jobs are hard to come by. Protect yours even if that means detaching from the situation.

Remember what is really important to you. Hopefully, your job is really important to you. I’m not saying to give up. I’m just saying that you need to pick and choose how to react to someone who is a thorn in your side, the slacker. Always remember – YOU are the professional!

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Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka Diana Directive, provides humorous ways to deal with difficult topics. Check out Diana’s website at If you want to share any “slacker” experiences you’ve had in your dental practice, email Lisa at [email protected]. She loves to hear from her readers!