Disagreements amongst dental staff members and the dentist is one of the most common situations I run into when working with a new client.
A good example is a recent new client who I personally found him to be very congenial, so I had a hard time believing this guy was “The Dental Devil Incarnate” as described by the majority of his staff.
I began by asking each of the staff the same question: "Do you know of any dental staff member that has been treated unjustly?” All fingers pointed to one person - we'll call her Sally for simplicity - though that is not her real name.
Sally apparently had been going around telling other staff members about how the doctor was mean to her, how the doctor mislead her about her pay, about how the doctor was mistreating her or not appreciating all she was doing, etc.
Needless to say Sally's co-workers were appalled and a distrust of the doctor began brewing. A bit of further investigation found that Sally was embezzling, looking for another job and was planning on just not showing up one day.
Sally had been with the doctor for about three years, but he had noticed that it was about a year ago that Sally's demeanor changed. He saw her texting in dental staff meetings. She’d roll her eyes when he asked her to do even the simplest tasks. But he never corrected her because she’d been with him for a while and, as far as he knew, she was doing a good job; and he wanted to be a “nice guy”.
Now I wasn't a fly on the wall this whole time but the embezzlement were small, and as far as we could tell, a fairly recent activity. What I imagined happened, is that Sally's misdeeds began as a minor thing and gradually built up into something far more serious. But because the doctor didn't sit down and have a face-to-face talk with her he essentially enabled her.
Doctors must take up issues with dental staff before they get too big. It's a vital action in running any business. And this should not be done in front of other staff. Do it at a time when you bring as little attention to calling the offending staff member “onto the carpet.” The purpose here is not to embarrass.
Dentists generally don't like dealing with these situations. But it’s vital you do so for the health of your practice. Correcting dental staff doesn't have to be an emotional and unpleasant activity. Don't mistake "being a nice guy" with allowing your staff to walk all over you. However, yelling and getting mad at them is just as big of an error.
Kevin Tighe, Cambridge Dental Consultants, Senior Consultant, got bitten hard by the business and marketing bug during long summer days working at his dad's Madison Avenue ad agency. After joining Cambridge as a speaker in the mid-1990s, Kevin went on to become Cambridge’s senior consultant and eventually CEO. Cambridge Dental Consultants is a full-service dental practice management company offering customized dental office manuals. Frustrated? High overhead? Schedule a chat with Kevin at