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Thursday Troubleshooter: The dentist should not give in to the team so easily

May 22, 2014
This office manager is frustrated because the dentist is too eager to please everyone

QUESTION:I am an office manager, and I am very frustrated with my dentist! He often gives in to the team’s requests because he wants everyone to like him, even if he believes that what they want may not be a good decision for the practice. Help!

ANSWER FROM JUDY KAY MAUSOLF, of Practice Solutions, Inc:
I refer to this as the “I Want Them to Like Me Syndrome.” I would ask to meet with the dentist to discuss decision strategies. Ask him how he makes a decision; in other words, what does he take into consideration before saying yes or no? Often times something is based on how someone may feel at the moment, so they give a knee-jerk reaction. To avoid this I would suggest the following questions before taking any action:
1. Ask yourself what’s in the best interests of the patients and practice and not any individual (including doctor).
2. It is practical, and does it make common sense? This also means, is it realistic with what you have available regarding time, money and people?
3. What is the precedence you are setting? If you can’t do it across the board for every team member, then the answer is no or it feels like favoritism or a lack of fairness.
4. Are you passionate enough about this to defend it to the point of losing the team member? If not, don’t implement it. Whatever you implement as protocol, then support it.

Whenwe give in because we want a team member to like us, we end up losing trust and respect from the other team members. Imagine this scenario – a rowboat with the doctor and office manager at the front of the boat pointing in the direction to travel. There are three team members on each side of the rowboat rowing. Anytime you bend the standards or protocols for one team member, you’re in essence telling them they do not have to row as hard as the other team members. This results in the rest of the team losing trust and respect.

It doesn’t stop there. Once the dentist says yes it becomes expected. He has just created a new standard without realizing it. Another team member asks him to compromise the standards just for this one time, and he can cave and say yes, wondering to himself, what’s the harm? When he says no later he will be accused of favoritism or unfairness. Pretty soon the entire team will stop rowing and no one will trust or respect or like the dentist!

Why not raise the bar. Instead of the rowboat in your office, have a decision strategy to implement well thought out systems and protocols. The dentist needs to be courageous enough to “just say no” when something does not pass the four-question decision process mentioned above. The team may not like him for the moment, but they will trust and respect him.

ANSWER FROM LISA MARIE SPRADLEY, FAADOM, The Front Desk Lady, TCB Dental Consulting:
When I was first married, someone told me to start as I meant to end. At 18, I didn't quite get what that meant, but I quickly learned. I was young and in love, of course I was going to work hard to make sure that my husband stayed in love with me. Flash forward five years with two children and a husband who was gone more than he was home thanks to the military way of life, and I may not have always been working as hard as I could to make him happy. I was not ending the way I started, and my husband didn't appreciate not being the center of my attention all the time. We worked through this; we came up with guidelines of when to focus on the family and when to focus on each other. This helped put structure back in our life and taught us to appreciate each other more.

Fast forward 15 years, and I’m the new office manager for a general dentist. There are eight team members and one dentist. They’re all looking to me for guidance after a bad experience left them without their previous office manager of 10 years. In an effort to gain their trust and friendship, I let them do things that if I had taken the time to think about, I would not have let them do. I had to learn from these mistakes the hard way, and in the process I know there were times that I was not the dream boss the team had hoped I would be. They were used to someone who wasn't around much and didn't have set protocols. I, on the other hand, was with them constantly and set systems in place to help them perform tasks in a more structured manner.

I did not start as I meant to end in this practice, and because of this there were some hurt feelings. However, I realized what I was doing incorrectly and now the dentist and the team know that they can trust me to help them get the best results for our patients and practice. I do this by practicing the following protocol:

1. All time off requests must be submitted in writing and given at least one month before desired date.
2. Regularly scheduled monthly meetings are hosted by rotating team members. This is their time to make suggestions for ways to improve, and bring new ideas and technology to the team.
3. The team must discuss any suggestions, and the dentist has the final say.
4. These meetings are not meant for complaining or negativity. Anyone who has an issue is given a set amount of time to discuss the problem, and then the meeting moves forward. (Problems that are too complicated to resolve in a meeting are handled between the person and the dentist and office manager.)
5. The involved individuals my resolve the conflict. Rumors and gossip are not tolerated and result in an immediate written reprimand that will be a part of the team member's record.

By keeping these guidelines, we’re able to work together as a team and no one feels like they’re less important than other team members. Speak to your doctor and ask if this is something that he might like to implement. Not only does this help the team's ability to work together, it takes the pressure off the dentist to constantly feel as if he must work hard to get the team to like them. Working together as a team, these guidelines will help earn respect and admiration for the dentist and the office manager.

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