Why is the team unhappy?

April 1, 1998
Most dental staff members are happy. They enjoy their jobs, helping patients, the professionalism involved, and the doctors. However, when unhappy team members leave a practice, it inevitably creates a great deal of disruption.

Roger Levin, DDS, MBA

Most dental staff members are happy. They enjoy their jobs, helping patients, the professionalism involved, and the doctors. However, when unhappy team members leave a practice, it inevitably creates a great deal of disruption.

The unhappy team member

Why are some team members unhappy? Is it that these people do not belong in a dental practice? Occasionally, that is true. Some people should not be working in a service business.

Another group, the majority, becomes unhappy after some period of time. They were not unhappy initially, but gradually became unhappy, based on a number of factors lacking in the practice.

The five factors

Ensuring the happiness of team members can depend on the following five factors.

1. Clarify values. We start our management-consulting program focusing on developing a set of values that can be communicated to all staff members. Each practice leader should think seriously about practice values. Are you dedicated to the satisfaction of every patient? Is your practice geared toward higher-end fees or toward a niche area such as cosmetics?

Development of practice values is extremely important. Some practices truly care about each employee`s growth and development. Some do not. Practices that put more emphasis on caring and development of employees tend to have happier staff members.

2. Communicate those values. Once values have been established, everyone should know exactly what they are. For example, is this a practice that claims to be dedicated to staff members having a high quality of life, but tends to run significantly behind schedule many days of the week? Running late can make it impossible for our patients to pick up children at car pools, meet families for different occasions and lead predictable lives. Some practices claim to have a set of values, but then regularly violate those values.

3. Develop a vision statement. A vision statement is a statement of where the practice is going - not where it is today. Many people are motivated by the challenge of moving toward the vision statement and achieving goals over time. This keeps dentistry exciting for all team members. Once a vision statement has been established, it must be communicated clearly on an ongoing basis.

4. Develop clear job descriptions. While it is imperative that everyone be willing to pitch in, the truth is that if people are pitching in they are not doing their main jobs in the office. Failure to do the main jobs results in a breakdown of the system, which leads to poor customer service.

Job descriptions are extremely important. People like to know what is expected of them so they can dedicate themselves to doing the job. When they constantly feel pulled in numerous directions, they end up feeling stressed and unhappy. This is a main cause of problems in dental practices.

5. Create systems in the practice. Dealing with crises all day quickly burns people out and makes it very difficult for them to function. Not only is it stressful for the dentist, it is extremely stressful for your employees, who find that a number of the crises fall directly on them. Written "expert" systems decrease crises.

These five factors are inexpensive ways to make your team happy and improve the efficiency and productivity of the practice. Best of all, a happy team usually means a happy doctor.

Dr. Roger Levin is founder and president of The Levin Group, a national, dental-management and marketing-consulting firm. He can be reached at (410) 654-1234.

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