4 Ways to Solve Employee Problems in Your Dental Office


There are a variety of ways to help make your practice a healthy and happy work environment for everybody.

4 Ways to Improve Problems in a Dental Office

By BalanceFormCreative / stock.adobe.com

Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems in a practice can be the staff. Do not get me wrong, there are so many phenomenal people working in the dental profession. But we do have a massive elephant in the room that has to be addressed. The issue? Angry employees. Yes, there is a massive shortage of dental hygienists and dental assistants, but what we truly need to look at is the staff you currently have. Problems here can make it impossible to entice new people to join your practice.

People vent. They vent loudly. There are other words some may use, but you get the idea. Truth be told, dentists are not the best business owners out there. In dental school, they are not taught how to run a business. They are taught how to be dentists. So where are they supposed to learn the business end of a dental practice? Some hire office managers, give them the title, but do not give them the power to make change. In fact, some of these dentists do a lot of micromanaging which sabotages their goal which is to have a thriving practice. These dentists are just too busy doing what they are trained for that they do not have the time to manage the practice. What happens? Things fall apart.

It is very frustrating for employees to bring a problem to the dentist, be told that action will be taken, to just have nothing happen. Eventually, the employees quit. They are tired of things continuing to work poorly. Sometimes, it can be processes and other times it can be interpersonal relationships amongst the staff that become toxic.

I spoke with Laurie Bowdino Kimball, a hygiene coach with The Team Training Institute and a dental hygienist at Precision Dental Group, in Hinckley, Ohio, who shared what she recommends for tackling this challenging issue. 

1. Have employees bring up the solutions. Do not just bring up the issues. What employees create; they support. If they do not have a stake in how a solution is going to be implemented, you have a problem. They need to believe in the solution, feel that their input is important, and their ideas are respected.

2. Deal with gossip. If you do not, employees get riled up and then quit. What do they do next? They go to Glassdoor or other social media and vent. Social media can destroy your practice. Laurie described a client who is in real trouble. He cannot recruit anyone to hire because of all the negativity that is out there about working in this practice. This goes not just for what the patients say about a practice, but also what your former employees are saying. Gossip and conflict are a cancer that must be dealt with before it spreads. It is so hard to recover when you are attacked on social media. A person might feel that no one is listening to them when working at the office and feel vindictive about expressing themselves on the internet. That can be scary.

3. Set action plans. Allow your staff the ability to act. When you are having a meeting, determine the next steps that will happen. Which employee will own the task? What will the plan be and how will it be implemented? What is the timeline and how will it be evaluated upon completion? If you allow people to self-govern, they will create new solutions. They need to be encouraged to take responsibility and create systems to fix the problems. This is how you grow professionals. The beauty of this is that by empowering your employees, time is not wasted by running to a doctor who is too busy to tackle that problem. This will free up everyone’s time to focus on their own responsibilities. The dentists need to have enough confidence to trust who they hire to make decisions that will benefit the entire practice. The bonus is that this will reduce turnover. 

4. Listen to your employees. Find out what is working and what is not. When you have the employees’ mastermind their own ideas, you will find results. You will find more creative ways to solve the problems. But you must have enough ego strength to listen. Point out what is working out well. Praise employees for their hard work and commitment. It may seem minor, but my doctor asked if I wanted coffee when he was running out to Starbucks last week. I am not a coffee drinker, but the actual offer of thinking about me meant everything. It changed how I was feeling about working that day. I felt like I was an important part of the team. Silly as it may seem, little things like that do matter.

Remember to treat your employees the way that you treat your patients. Both can truly destroy a practice if you are not taking care of them. Your employees need to know that they are part of a team. Whether that means offering to get them coffee when you are out, bringing in Taco Tuesdays, or taking them axe throwing to build relationships with each other. You want your team to be a healthy family that enjoys being together and working toward the same goals. If you adore the people you work with, feel respected and listened to, and can grow as a professional without a micromanager breathing down your back, the stress will decrease. The doctors will let their teams support them, the employees will stick around because they love where they work, and your patients will be happy because there is no turnover.

These are ways to improve your “corporate” culture. Yes. Even in a dental practice, culture means everything. Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com and share how your practice was able to turn things around.

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