Tips to Eliminate Staff Drama in Your Dental Office

by Dr. Gary Salwin

As a dental practice owner, your primary focus will always be to provide patients the best dental service possible.

Whether you’re a general dentist or specializing in emergency dental services, you want your patients to have a great experience under your care so that they’ll come back whenever they need your expertise.

However, getting them to become regular patients can prove to be tricky if they see some dental office drama play out before their eyes.

Hearing employees gossip, loud arguments between staff, people slamming doors behind them, or someone throwing a fit in your dental office is enough to drive away patients who witness any of that. They aren’t likely to return to see more of the soap opera set that is your dental practice.

Workplace drama is a fact of office life. There may be exceptions, but most offices staffed by people with varying backgrounds, personalities, and temperaments have the potential to become a breeding ground for conflict.

Your dental practice doesn’t need office drama. You need to reduce or even eliminate it, if possible. Here are some tips that will help you do just that.

1. Don’t Ignore Office Drama

Some dental practice owners ignore whatever drama there is, thinking that it’s none of their business. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Considering that your practice’s production and income hinges on the combined efforts of your entire team, conflicts that arise among its members just aren’t good for your business.

If you ignore the drama, it will fester and become a much bigger problem that can prove to be too difficult to handle.

Dental office drama is your business, and you need to do something about it.

2. Set A Policy

Your dental practice, your rules.

Put a policy in place that defines office drama and discourages it.

As much as possible, be clear about your practice’s policy for handling it, including possible actions that you may take against offenders.

With a clear policy discouraging office drama, you’re giving your staff something to think about whenever they’re entertaining thoughts of picking a fight with a colleague, gossiping about their personal lives, or throwing a temper tantrum at work.

3. Make Staff’s Roles Crystal-clear

A common cause of conflict in dental offices is multiple employees performing the same tasks, which, for those involved, often comes across as one trying to do the other’s job. We can even stretch that further to one thinking the other is after their job.

You can eliminate issues like this by clearly defining every employee’s job functions. These job descriptions should contain details like specific tasks, who they’re supposed to report to, and the type of authority and decision-making capability they hold, if any.

If possible, these job descriptions should be made public to avoid confusion.

4. Talk to The People Involved

We’re all human, and we all have “stuff” to deal with in our everyday lives. We try to be as professional as we can at work, but there are times when our issues get the better of us and manifest themselves at work in the form of an argument with a colleague or venting at someone.

While any policy you put in place will always be in effect, it would help a lot if you get the employees involved in a room together so they can settle their differences.

It would be great if your dental practice has an office manager or OM who is presumably better trained at handling these kinds of conflicts.

However, if you don’t have an OM and you have to do this yourself, you need to make sure that you don’t come across as favoring one over the other.

You also need to remind them the dental office environment should always be pleasant and professional, and they must resolve their conflict before things get out of hand.

5. Act on Toxic Employees

In many cases of office drama, it’s just a clash of personalities or work-related issues that trigger them.

However, there are cases where most, if not all, of the dental office drama originates from one member of your staff.

Chances are that this employee with a toxic attitude often has a hand in most of the conflicts in your dental office. He or she is actively involved in spreading gossip or may even pit a colleague against another by playing “he said, she said.” This toxic employee also seems to have problems with the rest of your staff.

It wouldn’t be surprising if this troublemaker in your team will violate any policy against office drama that you implement.

If that is the case, it may be time to let this person go, especially when his or her actions are already hindering the overall productivity of your dental practice. Just make sure that the actions you take against this employee are in keeping with your company policy and labor laws.

No one needs office drama, but they can prove to be unavoidable. Everyone in your practice is human, after all. But by taking steps like the ones listed above, your chances of reducing or eliminating dental office drama would be better than if you just ignored it.

About The Author

Dr. Gary Salwin leads the Glendale Dental Group, Arizona. He and his team treat dental emergencies and perform a whole range of dental services. He has been practicing dentistry for more than 36 years.

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