Sticky situations: What to do about the dentist's meddling wife?


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.

The doctor has a great rapport with his team. They feel like they’re a part of his family. As a team, they laugh together and he really helps them feel excited about the dentistry they do and why they do it. They come together around a vision that says they are there to serve their patients, create an environment of serenity, and provide the best dentistry possible.

And then … Mrs. Doctor shows up. She looks over the financials, mutters under her breath that production is down and collections are worse. She begins to move patient blocks on the schedule. She orders the staff about and suggests that certain supply orders could be sent back because the office can’t afford them right now.

Another Sticky Situation: What to do when the dental assistant feels like "she's the maid"

Team members who joke or laugh with each other are scowled at and judged as being unprofessional. The whole office walks on eggshells waiting for “the Mrs.” to leave. They watch as the doctor who is usually jovial and focused becomes tense and distracted. The team members wonder what happened to the guy who was in charge of the office. It seems he’s not even “allowed” to engage in a friendly manner with his team members. 

Roles shift so rapidly when the doctor’s wife comes on the scene. Her appearance is neither scheduled nor welcome. It’s disruptive to the point that team members want to quit.

Go to page 2 to see the solution...


The team members need to let the doctor know how they feel. The doctor needs to gain clear role definition with his wife (who is, in fact, a part business owner and can have access to the information she’s seeking).

They might express to the doctor, “When Mrs. Doctor comes in unexpectedly, our flow is disrupted and our practice’s vision is violated. We need your help so that she can get the information she’s asking for and we can continue serving patients.”

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

The doctor will have to engage in a difficult conversation at home because issues of roles, personal value, and control are all at stake. By not making it personal, a deep conversation can happen. Assume positive intentions (however disruptive the behavior) and discuss the vision of the practice.

A courageous conversation between the doctor and wife might begin with, “It seems like you’re eager to help. Thank you, because the vision of the practice is to provide the best care for every patient. When the flow is disrupted in the middle of the morning, the result is that the rest of the day gets thrown off. I’m wondering if we could set a time for you to come in and give your input that would work better for everyone? We have admin time at the end of the day or perhaps we can get together on Friday to focus on the practice?”

Ultimately, coaching, consulting, or even counseling might be in order so that an outside agent may help in defining roles. Saving the marriage and saving the practice would be the happy outcome in this instance. It takes work (and courage), but there’s a lot at stake. Clarity and courage are worth it.

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

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