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Thursday Troubleshooter: Should dental team member write up peer who refuses to listen?

Sept. 6, 2018
This dental office manager is frustrated with a peer who refuses to listen and follow instructions. Should she write up this person?

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QUESTION: Help! I have a staff member who needs to be written up. She’s instigating rumors with staff members. She is incompetent in her work. She argues with patients. I even made a checklist to help her and she threw it away. Anytime I ask her to do something she questions it. In front of patients she’s said that I have personal issues against her because I bring things to her attention and try to help her fix the mistakes she’s constantly making (due to her not following the checklist). I can never get a straight answer from her when I ask her about completing the duties that I assign to her. She needs to be written up, but should I take that step?

ANSWER FROM KEVIN HENRY, co-founder of IgniteDA:
One thing that is so important for any business is that the customers (in this case, your patients) never see any of the dysfunction that goes on behind the scenes. Your dental practice should be run as a business and that means making sure that the customers always feel that things are harmonious and in control, even if they’re not.

Think about if you walked into a restaurant and the waiter was talking badly about the chef, or the hostess decided not to sit you in a certain section of the restaurant and then told you about the issues she was having with the waiter in that section. I don’t think I’d ever go back to that restaurant again, and I’d probably mention something about my uncomfortable experience on social media.

When you are a customer somewhere, you can sense if there is tension in a business, right? Your customers are sensing that right now in your dental practice. None of that is good for a business. It must change immediately.

One thing that I always tell dental assistants when I speak to them around the country is that you don’t always have to like the people you work with. However, you do have to find common ground to not only get through the day but also to have your business (and career) prosper.

For many dental practices, that common ground is the mission statement. What does it say in your mission statement and are your team members living up to those words? If you say you want to provide a “safe and comfortable environment” (or something similar) for your patients, then in-fighting doesn’t fit into that model.

Use the mission statement as your bottom line. Make sure that employees are abiding by it. If they’re not, or if they’re not putting patients and their comfort and safety first, then they absolutely should be written up or asked to leave the practice.

Is that an easy thing to do? Absolutely not. However, one person can’t be more important than the entire business. When customers aren’t comfortable, the business will suffer. When the business suffers, everyone who works there will suffer.

If you feel like writing up this person is the next logical step, then do it. Make sure a conversation follows with more than just you and this person present so there is a neutral third party who can hear exactly what was said about the writeup and the response. If the writeup doesn’t work, termination may be in order.

Don’t delay. Do what you can now to ensure there is as much harmony in the practice as possible. Your customers will thank you for it.

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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 [email protected] 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 various issues 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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