What team members need to know when concerned about the financial health of the practice

January 26, 2016

Columnist Lisa Newburger talks about the fear some team members have about a dental practice possibly closing.

This is taboo. I know I am not supposed to address “the elephant” in the dental practice, but here goes … we are losing patients. On top of that, I think we are having financial problems … and I am scared. Will my job be eliminated? I’ve lived that nightmare before, but this time, it’s different.

In the last dental practice I worked, the dentist had a very small staff. He was a solo practitioner and there were only three of us working for him. He was a great guy … then I got a phone call on a Sunday that he had committed suicide. I was numb. How could this happen? He seemed like such a nice, calm, relaxed person. It was fun working there, but something must have happened that led him to end his life. At first, I felt that I had missed the signals but hindsight is always 20/20. He was going through a divorce and had a son incarcerated. I was out of work the very next day. His wife gave us all two weeks worth of severance as she started figuring out what to do next.

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I was out of work for a year when I landed this job through a dental hygienist friend of mine. It is a huge practice with lots of staff and great office space. It is 10 minutes from my home, and it feels like I joined a big, warm family … but rumors are running rampant around here. People are talking in hushed voices. People look around before they speak softly, then when someone approaches, they stop talking immediately. This is really not good for morale. What they need to do is have a staff meeting and let us know what is going on. A lot of times, management doesn’t want to do something as risky as that, but  we are all a part of this dental family. If the practice fails, we will ALL be out of a job.

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What am I supposed to do or say? I am the new kid on the block. There is always a queen bee in every office … and I am not her. I am a mere follower. I have bills to pay. I have two kids who have a deadbeat father who doesn’t pay child support. My folks have helped us in difficult times when the car needed to get fixed, but I was just getting back on my feet here with this job. I don’t want to have to move back in with my parents. They are great, but you end up regressing into being a kid when you live in their house. It is like going to your high school reunion and walking back in time to the insecurities you banished 20 years ago.

What I want to say to my dentist and office manager is this…

We need a staff meeting. Rumors are flying around that we are in financial trouble. Can we get everyone together and learn what is going on?

We want to help. This is a team. We work well together and can tackle anything.

We may have the solution, but not knowing the problem is just fueling fears. I am worried that staff will start jumping ship instead of having faith this will get resolved.

Money issues are a sensitive topic, but our survival is more important right now.

For more from the author: 5 ways to handle a challenging boss in the dental practice 

Most dentists and office managers might write me off and try to reassure me that everything is fine. But, let’s face it, we can tell when there is tension in the practice. We can tell when the phone isn’t ringing and we are asked to leave early since there are no patients. We know you are trying to figure out how to resolve this issue, but we are in this together.

If you have had situations like this happen in your dental practice, shoot me an email at diana2@discussdirectives.com and let me know how it was handled and what the outcome was. Share with me the good, the bad and the ugly. You aren’t alone. We are a team.