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Dental Consultant Tips: Unpleasant Staff Situations

Dental Consultant Tips: Unpleasant Staff Situations

The Achilles' heel of many a dental practice owner is to avoid dealing with unpleasant staff situations. A good example is a recent new client of mine. 

I found him to be very congenial, so I had a hard time believing this guy was the "dental devil incarnate” described by the majority of his staff.

I asked each of the staff members in his practice the same question: "Has anyone in the practice been treated unjustly?” All fingers pointed to one person—we'll call her Sally. Sally had apparently been going around telling other staff members about how the practice owner was mean to her, that the doctor deceived her about her pay, how he was mistreating her and did not appreciate all she was doing, and more.

Needless to say, Sally's coworkers were appalled and a distrust of the doctor began brewing. A bit of investigating uncovered that fact that Sally was embezzling and looking for another job. She had been with the doctor for about three years. He had been noticing for a little over a year that Sally's attitude had changed and was getting progressively worse. For example, where she had previously been very cooperative, she now did lots of “eye rolling” when asked to do even the simplest of tasks. She took longer and longer breaks, called in sick more often, voiced disagreements, and did not follow new policies, such as no texting or using her cell phone in front of patients.

The practice owner’s error was that he avoided dealing with these issues when they came up. He never corrected her because she’d been with him for a while. As far as he knew she was doing a good job, so he felt there was no reason to “rock the boat.”

We learned that the embezzlement were small, and as far as we could determine, had started fairly recently. What I imagine happened is that Sally's misdeeds started as a minor thing and gradually built into something far more serious; however, since the doctor didn't sit down and have a face-to-face talk with her, he was essentially enabling her.

Avoiding dealing with staff issues is often due to a practice owner’s fear of dismissing employees or the false idea that an employee is irreplaceable. When this happens, staff sense the fear and some will take advantage of it.

Practice owners or the office manager must confront issues with staff before they get too big. This is vital to running any practice, and it should not be done in front of other staff. It should be done at a time when as little attention as possible will be drawn to calling the offending staff member “onto the carpet.” The purpose is not to embarrass anyone.

Many dentists don't like dealing with these situations. Who does? But it’s vital for you to do so for the health of your practice. Correcting dental staff doesn't have to be an emotional or unpleasant activity. Don't mistake "Dr. Nice" with allowing your staff to walk all over you. That being said, letting things build up and then exploding is just as big of an error.

At any given time, one or more staff members are likely doing something that you would not be too happy about if you discovered it. It's the nature of the beast. That's why it is so important to have a written policy and protocol for correcting and disciplining staff.

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 

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There is the good, the bad and the ugly of dental practice management, but many dentists will still tell you the probability is your dental consulting will work if you and your consultant are on the same page. It stands to reason that if a dental consultant had little value, worth or benefit that consultant could not stand up to harsh economic realities for long.  A veteran dental consultant is also a "personal coach" who shold bring management wisdom based on "in the trenches" experience along with systems and protocols to that have been successfully implemented in other practices. Top dental consultants talk and network with each other. They pay attention to what systems work and don't across many dental practices. 


New Patient Phone Call

Insurance Processing

New Patient Experience and Patient Education

Financial Arrangements



Unscheduled Treatment 


Daily and Weekly Checklists

General Policy Manual 

Staff Accountability

What gets monitored, gets managed. It is as simple as that. The only way to monitor what gets done is with daily stats especially for your weak areas. For example, one employee should be specifically responsible for calls to patients who are unscheduled, overdue for re-care or need reactivation. Other staff can and should help in coordination with the accountable employee.


What most practice owners are lack in knowledge is not how to book an appointment, but rather how to be an effective leader. The best systems in the world are useless if the staff do not comply. Good leaders know how to get staff to willingly follow through and comply. 

Questions To Ask 

  1. Do you and/or your staff have to travel or does the consultant come to you?

  2. Is the program mostly one on one consulting versus seminars or courses with multiple clients in attendance?There are advantages to both.

  3. If the dental consulting is one on one who will actually deliver the consulting? I recommend knowing who your specific dental consultant will be prior to signing on the dotted line.

  4. Is program based on a specific dental practice management system? You want to avoid cookie-cutter programs. Ensure the program will be tailor-made to fit your practice's specific needs.

  5. The cost (including travel expenses and downtime) is certainly not the only factor, everything else being equal, it is still a major factor to consider. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little.  


Top Dental Practice Mangement Consultant

Shane Blake DDS Coudersport, PA

My name is Kevin Tighe. Consultant. Coach. Mentor.

My mission is to advise, recommend and help implement proven systems to grow your practice . 

Before joining the Cambridge team I was in charge of setting up workshops for large nonprofits throughout the United States and Canada. During that time, I was fortunate to receive mentoring from several world-class business consultants, including a dental practice management guru, which led to a position at Cambridge as their seminar organizer. In time, I began crisscrossing the country delivering seminars myself for the better part of a decade. Subsequently, I moved up to senior consultant and eventually partner and now sole owner. 


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