How to cultivate a loyal and dedicated staff

In the 25 years that I`ve been in dentistry, I`ve had the privilege of working with many different personalities of dentists. I think I`ve seen everything, from the best to the worst and a whole lot in-between. Most doctors I consult with truly would like their staffs to respect them. These same doctors would like to have a pleasant, low-stress working atmosphere where patients are taken care of and production flows.

Jan 1st, 1998

Dianne D. Glasscoe, RDH, BS

In the 25 years that I`ve been in dentistry, I`ve had the privilege of working with many different personalities of dentists. I think I`ve seen everything, from the best to the worst and a whole lot in-between. Most doctors I consult with truly would like their staffs to respect them. These same doctors would like to have a pleasant, low-stress working atmosphere where patients are taken care of and production flows.

If you encounter frequent staffing problems, maybe you need to check up on yourself. Are you your own worst enemy? Do you truly care about what your staff thinks of you? Don`t ever underestimate the power of your staff members in building your practice. They can be your greatest asset or liability, depending on your relationship with them. The following guidelines will help you build a great working relationship with employees who devote their lives to your practice.

1. Come to work in a good mood!!! How do you come to work each morning? Do you look forward to beginning a new day, ready to face the challenges that will present themselves? Is there a spring in your step and sunshine in your voice when you greet your staff (you do greet your staff, don`t you?) each morning?

Or, do you arrive with dread written all over your face and agitation in your voice? A kind word and a smile can do wonders in setting the tone for a great day. Remember your staff and patients are sensitive to your mood. It makes people around you feel uncomfortable when they perceive your foul mood. So try to leave your emotional baggage outside the door of your office each morning and enter with a fresh outlook, thankful for a new day.

2. Don`t expect perfection from imperfect people. Dentists, by nature, are perfectionists. This is not a bad trait unless it is carried to extremes. Some dentists experience high staff turnover because they expect their staff to be perfect. Some staff members feel like they are walking on eggshells when they come to work, afraid of the doctor`s wrath if they make a mistake. But let`s face it, no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and we should learn from our mistakes. If you feel that too many mistakes are being made, the people in question probably need better training. The point is that you should allow your staff members to do their job without criticizing their every move. If criticism is needed, it is done privately and with the utmost gentleness.

3. Treat your staff like "para-family." As the leader of the practice, you should accept the role of coach and chief cheerleader of the team. The staff takes their cues from you, so be an example to them in your attitude or in anything you do - kind of like a parent. A little praise given to a staff member in front of a patient can do wonders for staff morale! Another great morale-booster is making a big deal of staff birthdays. One doctor I worked for always got the birthday person a cake, and by doing so, he was giving the local bakery his patronage. By the way, the baker was one of his patients and often referred others to his practice for their dental needs. The birthday cake was a small gesture, but it meant so much to those who worked there. Be on the lookout for small ways to spoil your staff. It`s the little things that are remembered and held precious. Try to promote a feeling of family among staff members.

4. Compensate your staff fairly and ungrudgingly. A good boss realizes that he/she can`t do the job alone and understands the value of good staff people. I`ve heard consultant Linda Miles say, "Above-average offices do above-average dentistry, charge above-average fees and pay above-average wages." Having a reputation for paying exceptional wages makes it easier to keep good employees or replace one if necessary. If you underpay your people, you`re inviting high stress and high staff turnover.

5. Develop and use a sense of humor. Some of my fondest memories in 25 years of dentistry are the funny things. Did you know that doctors who have a good sense of humor and who enjoy a good belly laugh daily have the least turnover? Humor has diffused many tense situations. Learn to laugh at yourself and try not to take life so seriously! Dentistry is a tedious and tense profession in itself, but laughter helps to relieve tension. Humor can be therapeutic, like a good massage to tired, aching muscles. It just feels good to laugh, so do it often with patients and staff.

These are but a few of the traits of a great boss. Are you observing these guidelines already or do you feel that you need to improve in some of these areas? The good news is that it`s never too late to become a better person. And, if your staff relations improve, so will your patient relations. As your patient relations improve, so will your production and, ultimately, your bottom line!

Dianne D. Glasscoe, RDH, BS, has a 25-year career in dentistry and holds a bachelor`s degree in human service management. She currently works part-time in private practice in Thomasville, N.C., and does practice management consulting. Ms. Glasscoe can be reached at (910) 472-3515 or send e-mail to dglasscoe@northstate.net.

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