Read this one at your next staff meeting!

May 1, 2003
It's happening again — I am recommending to a doctor/client that he terminate one of his good employees.

Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS

It's happening again — I am recommending to a doctor/client that he terminate one of his good employees. You're probably thinking, "Have you gone bonkers? Good employees don't exactly grow on trees."

OK, there are good employees, and there are good employees. And you are correct; it's tough to find good help out there. But let's distinguish between an employee who simply performs her responsibilities in an above-average fashion, and one who does so while perpetually creating disharmony and strife. In short, do you have a "Ms. Task-Perfect" in your midst who everyone dislikes for legitimate reasons?

I'm a real nagger when it comes to suggesting to doctors that staff members should have job descriptions. One essential element that I've yet to see written into the list of responsibilities is, "Employees are expected to work harmoniously with all other employees."

As a clinical RDH and consultant to many practices, I have had plenty of opportunities to witness various personality conflicts that get played out in the daily soap opera, "As the Dental Practice World Turns." Frequently, one individual is the troublemaker. This person may be a model employee in terms of performing her duties, but she can't get along with the rest of the gang. It's a shame to have to dump her, but that is exactly what you should do if a toxic staff member exists in your world. Life is too short and you don't need the stress!

Sit down with this person and have a heart-to-heart discussion one time only. Schedule a follow-up talk for one month later. The message from you must be: "Learn to get along with everyone, or you will have to find a new home." Make certain Ms. Toxicity leaves the meeting with the understanding that it is not enough to perform perfectly if everyone else's lives are made miserable in the process. Be advised, you may not accomplish very much. Sadly, these folks usually don't "get it." (It's always someone else's fault.) Inform this person that you will be paying careful attention in the weeks ahead.

I have seen many doctors retain such people-poisons because the job is getting done, and the prospect of finding or breaking in someone new can seem daunting. However, be assured that holding on to such people is not worth the deleterious effects they are causing to the overall morale of your team. Follow through on your ultimatum if the situation does not improve. You will have helped this person on his or her life's

journey, and things will become a heck of a lot better at the office!

When looking to replace team members, ask them to take an objective look in the mirror and honestly ask themselves, "Do I see myself working here?" Perhaps the candidate thinks it's enough to possess exemplary RDH skills, or is convinced that there has never been a more efficient office administrator this side of the Mississippi. Even if they can perform as advertised, they need to leave their holier-than-thou attitudes at the front door and find something to like in every co-worker. It's there if they really want to see it.

We spend far too many waking hours in our offices to work amidst disharmony and strife. We need to take action to eliminate this when-ever possible. It is the responsibility of every leader. Good luck!

Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS, is a dental practice-management consultant. Her company, About Face Dental Consulting, is located in Perrineville, N.J. Currently, she lectures, writes, and provides customized workshops and coaching for doctors and their staffs. Morrissey also is the Editor of Practice Inspiration, a publication of the Seattle Study Club. She can be reached at (732) 446-1461 or [email protected].

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