May 6, 2019
by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers
Picture working in this environment:
Your entire team, led by the office manager, has conspired against you. At lunch time, there is never a chair at the table for you. Sometimes, the lunch you have prepared has been thrown out and you are left hungry for the rest of the day! When team social events are planned, not only are you not invited…you are specifically TOLD you are not welcome.
You hope your owner-dentist will intervene and protect you. After all, he is aware of the situation. But he wants to avoid the “drama” and just focus on dentistry. So he does nothing.
Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it?
Yet this is the very scenario we were presented with by Sue Jeffries, an American speaker who presents on the subject of bullying in the dental office. It is not Sue’s story, but a story relayed to her from a colleague. And it is not the only story she can tell you.
We may like to think that, as adults, we would never demean ourselves by engaging in such conduct. Some of us might like to think bullying is not an issue in the Canadian workplace, so we need not be concerned by what is happening south of the border.
Sadly, you would be mistaken…both counts.
The most recent Canadian statistics indicate that 19% of women in the workplace and 13% of men report having been victims of workplace harassment.1 Within the healthcare field, those numbers increase to 26.6% of female workers and 21.4% of male workers.2
This is despite the fact that a number of Canadian jurisdictions provide workers with legislative protection against workplace bullying. Such protection is important. The fines that can be levied against business owners and office managers who fail to provide a safe working environment can be significant.
However, legislation only goes so far. Some people may find it easier to simply leave a poisonous work environment rather than aggravate the situation by initiating a legal proceeding. Even worse, some may feel they cannot afford to leave such a position nor can they seek legal protection.
So they endure the pain and humiliation. They suffer through the loss of dignity. Many experience depression and a loss of self-worth. But they simply feel they have no choice.
It should not be that way. With our without legislative protection, workers should have the right to work in an environment that is safe and free of such behaviour. As practice owners or office managers, you have an obligation to make sure you provide a safe work environment.
Legal or moral obligations aside, providing a safe workplace makes sense. Respectful workplaces are more productive. Team members who are confident and happy in their work environment are more likely to be dedicated to you because they know you are dedicated to them.
And it is not just the productivity of the potential victim that will be improved. Do you honestly believe that those who engage in conduct described above have the best interests of your practice at heart? If they can be so selfish and mean-spirited to treat a colleague in such a fashion, how are they treating you? Your patients?
Protecting your team is the right thing to do. The fact that it may also be the more profitable thing to do simply means it makes that much more sense. It shows you care about having the best team in dentistry. And it starts at the top!
Unfortunately, the numbers are not further sub-divided such that we might be able to observe the experience in dental offices.