Thursday Troubleshooter: Dentist wants office manager to quit giving him cold shoulder

This dentist needs to let the assistant go, which is the job of the office manager. Unfortunately this has caused tension between the dentist and office manager. What can he do?

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 03 Cold Shoulder 1

Nearly everyone has problems and concerns on the job, and sometimes you're just too close to a situation to solve something yourself. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will examine the issues and provide guidance. Send questions to megk@pennwell.com.

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Cold Shoulder

QUESTION: I’m a dentist and I’m having issues with one of the assistants.The problem is, the office manager is best friends with this assistant. I told the office manager I’m going to have to let the assistant go. Since I told her this, she’s giving me the cold shoulder. What should I do? I don’t feel it’s fair because if this happened to any other employee the issue would be taken care of and I would not get the same reaction from the OM. Thank you for any advice.

ANSWER FROM FROM DENISE CIARDELLO, Global Team Solutions:
The role of the dental office manager, by definition, is to oversee the operations of the dental office. Although the responsibilities may vary from office to office, we typically train managers to keep their thumb on the flow of the day, keep track of the numbers as designed to meet all the goals in the practice, handle any surprises throughout the day, and adequately train all members of the team.

I feel that the most important role of the office manager is to be the conduit of information between the practice owner and the team. In order to be effective in this position, the office manager must maintain a sense of neutrality with all team members. His or her loyalty is to the practice in all matters.

If the team is not happy about something, the OM takes it to the owner to speak for the team. If the owner has a change in policy, he or she communicates that change to the OM so the OM can notify the team. This neutrality is to remain at all times. My favorite phrase is that the office manager should “remain as neutral as Switzerland.” He or she may not agree with the owner, but should never let the team know about these feelings.

My recommendation in this situation is for you to have a discussion with the office manager. Explain your expectations of the person in fulfilling the OM role. You need to have a meeting of the minds and a good understanding of what you will and will not accept from her, the person you’ve put in the position of managing the operations of the office. It is not uncommon for the OM to have friends in the office; however, a sense of neutrality must be maintained. As a professional, there are times when the OM must correct undesirable behavior, even with a friend, and “remain as neutral as Switzerland.” Simply state the facts of the matter to her and define how her behavior must be carried out moving forward. Good luck!

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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to megk@pennwell.com for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their problems on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.


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