This is the fifth installment in the blog series 12 Mistakes I Made When Starting in Dentistry written by Dr. Agatha Bis. In each article, Dr. Bis shares a mistake she made and the lessons that she learned from it that helped her improve and grow her dental practice. In this article, Dr. Bis writes about learning why and how to handle issues with staff.
I’ve talked with many dentists who have this issue. At one time or another, most of us had a staff member that got away with certain behaviour, with no consequences, most likely for the simple reason that we just don’t like dealing with this stuff. We want to go to our office, do our dentistry, and go home, without dealing with drama or people problems.
Mistake #5 – Having No Consequences for Poor Behaviour
People problems are exhausting. Most of us would be happy doing dentistry without ever having to speak to a human being. But that’s not reality. People come with all kinds of problems, issues, weird quirks, and beliefs. People come with their own set of rules for what’s acceptable behaviour, and many times, it doesn’t match up with yours. For example, you may think it’s not okay to be late for work, but many people feel that if they have a good reason, then it is okay.
It’s Not Okay
I had an assistant like that. She was a lovely lady, all the patients loved her, she was super caring and giving, and very empathetic and warm to everyone, so she was a great fit as an assistant. She would make nervous patients more comfortable, allow me to walk out of the room after doing the dentistry without having to stay and socialize because she would always take over the conversation when it side-tracked off of post-op instructions and into social. She was great with me since I don’t enjoy small talk, nor am I good at it. So we worked incredibly well together since she was able to fill the void where I lacked certain etiquette or types of behaviour. But…she was constantly late.
Always a Good Excuse
It was the traffic. It was the weather. Her alarm didn’t go off. She forgot something at home and had to turn back. Her cat was sick. Her dog was sick. Her guinea pig was sick. Her daughter left her science project on the table and needed it. Her car wouldn’t start. Her car needed an oil change. Her car had to be dropped off at the repair place and it opened at 9:00 am. Her neighbour came over. Her mom came over. Her friend came over. It was endless. Reason after reason. I just ignored it because, while it annoyed the crap out of me since she was so good with the patients, I didn’t want to address it and create an issue. So day after day, week after week, I started on my own or someone stepped in to help me get the patient started until she waltzed in whenever she finally showed up.
Poor Behaviour With No Consequences Impacts Everyone
But it nagged at me and now I know, it bothered everyone else on the team that there were no consequences for this person. What I didn’t know at the time is that they all felt it was unfair to them! They felt that I was allowing her to get away with something that I wouldn’t allow anyone else to get away with. And I expected them to help out and step in when she was late but didn’t really acknowledge any of it. So I was not the only one impacted by this. They didn’t like it. They felt cheated. And they wanted me to do something about it because we were no longer a team, as long as one person was getting away with bad behaviour.
So I did what I always do—research something excessively and ask those around me who know more than I do about the topic. I went to learn from some business leaders that have great teams and have systems in place for how to manage people problems like this. Out of that, I developed a simple system of training and behaviour. I broke it down into 4 steps:
- Effective communication
- Problem Resolution
- Results Clarity
- Consistency of Recognition
Then I defined 3 key parts: Action, Behaviour, Consequence. I then learned about motivation and defining how to identify when someone needs more time or training versus when it’s an attitude problem and how to deal with that. I created a system for defining an area of improvement, measuring current performance, setting a new goal, measuring new performance over time, and evaluating and giving feedback. I tweaked it and improved it as I applied it in my office, time and time again, and I called it The ABCs of Training. It became a portion of the Ultimate Team Culture program available at UPB Dental Academy, and completely changed the way I deal with people issues now.
There is no more fear around discussing a problem as soon as it occurs, and this gives me a non-emotional, simple way to change, correct, or reprimand behaviour that is inconsistent with what I want for my practice. So if you would like to learn more about the ABCs of Training, check out our Ultimate Team Culture program for more.
Dr. Agatha Bis is a cosmetic dentist and the founder of UPB Dental Academy. Dr. Bis uses her experience and extensive research to develop UPB Dental Academy Courses what help dentists achieve their ultimate practice.