Sticky situations: How to handle team members who have a verbal confrontation


Editor's Note: The following "Sticky Situation" was submitted by Dr. Wayne Pernell of the Pride Institute. It is the latest in a string of "Sticky Situations" submitted by the experts at Pride Institute.

Kathy at the front desk has been with the doctor since the practice opened more than 20 years ago. Judy, the hygienist, feels like Kathy isn’t keeping her schedule full. 

Judy has become resentful and agitated with Kathy. It’s to the point that Judy snubs Kathy openly when there are holes in her schedule. Other team members have noticed it and are becoming afraid of how she’ll react. They don’t want to get Judy mad at them.

Kathy feels like she’s being helpful when she does schedule for Judy but she’s getting a little fed up with Judy’s entitlement. It now looks like the team is splitting apart and that Judy might even be “poisoning” the thinking of other team members. Kathy has been a little snippy in return. She sharply retorts,“It’s not my job” or “Fill your own schedule if you don’t like it.” While she feels justified, she’s not winning any friends.

The doctor hears of this when a shouting match breaks out at a team meeting.

“Just do your job and shut up” turns back with “You just shut up!” 

“I don’t have to shut up, my therapist says I can say what I want so you … just … shutttt uuuuupppppp!!!”

The doctor’s eyes go as wide as saucers and he sits there stunned.

(Yes, this is based on a true story)

Another Sticky Situation: Should a team member handle the practice's social media?

Go to the next page for the resolution

Resolution (that didn’t happen, but could have)

The doctor stands and takes back the room. He breathes and asks each of the two to gather their belongings and clock out for the day. He explains that this behavior violates the vision of the practice and that they will be called back in the next couple of days to re-interview for their positions. Until then, they are suspended without pay. 

This sends a message to ALL team members that the doctor is unkillable in terms of the vision. While the team members might have some issues to work out, certain behavior will never be allowed on the floor.

Should the doctor choose, he can call them in to discuss behavior and the vision. He can also choose to terminate them for creating a hostile work environment, disrupting business, and, as a base, violating the vision.

Guidelines will be set for all team members to use the “I” Statement Formula:

· When (neutral description of behavior) happens

· I feel _______________________

· What I’d like in the future is if ________________________

· (seek agreement)

The scripting would go, “When my schedule isn’t full, I feel like you don’t care about me. What I’d like is if you could work on filling my schedule.”

The response might be, ”When I see you on your cell phone when you have holes in your schedule, I feel somewhat resentful. What I’d like is for you to make some calls to patients to fill your schedule so I know you’re as invested in your work as I am.”

Sometimes people need to be given the script in order to know that a different way of communicating is possible.

Another Sticky Situation: How to handle a negative online review of your practice

Have a Sticky Situation you need help with? Contact us at Pride Institute offers an array of consulting services, products, and seminars to enhance the lives of dentists, their teams and ultimately their patients. For more information about our services, speak with one of our client services specialists at (800) 925-2600 or visit

Related Videos
Mastermind - Episode 31 - Retaining Dental Staff
Mastermind - Episode 30 - Tackling Today's Tough Challenges
Mastermind - Episode 29 - Addressing Racial Disparities in Hiring at Dental Practices
Mastermind - Episode 27 - Ethical Dilemmas in the Dental Practice
Mastermind - Episode 26 - Let's Talk Money
2023 Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting, Interview with Dr Lauren McDonough, VP, Practice Owner Development at Aspen Dental
Mastermind - Episode 25 - Building a Strong Dental Team
Mastermind - Episode 24 - Where is Dentistry Going in 2023?
Greater New York Dental Meeting 2022: Interview with Head of Business Development at Cloud Dentistry Darius Somekhian
Mastermind - Episode 21 - Stress Relief for Dental Professionals
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.