Anger Control Issues

June 1, 2012
Recently, my best dental assistant gave notice and left my practice. She was a great employee and worker.

By Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA

Dear Dianne,

Recently, my best dental assistant gave notice and left my practice. She was a great employee and worker. The reason she gave for leaving was my temper. There was an incident where I overreacted to her forgetting to put something that I needed on the tray. When I brought it up in the lab, she started to cry. She was my third dental assistant in two years. Her departure has left me in a bind, and it has been difficult to find a qualified replacement.

I’ve been told that I have a quick temper. Sometimes I speak before I think, and I know I need to watch what I say. I just wish I could find a good assistant who won’t be so sensitive. The continual turnover is wearing on me. Do you have any advice on how I can build a better working relationship with my staff members?

Dr. Joe

Dear Dr. Joe,

Yes, I have some excellent advice, and it is called “anger management counseling.” Three assistants in two years is not a fluke. They are not leaving you because they are sensitive. They are leaving because of your verbally abusive treatment. You are your own worst enemy.

“Temper is the one thing you can’t get rid of by losing it.” (Dr. Buddy Rydell)

Let me share a story. There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence.

The first day the boy drove 37 nails into the fence! Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.

He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. But it won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry; the wound will still be there.”

A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one. Remember that high quality staff members are very rare jewels indeed. They make it possible for you to succeed. When you hurt your staff members with sharp words, you hurt your practice.

You know your short fuse negatively affects staff longevity, but did you know it also has serious consequences on your physical health? The long-term effects of frequent or chronic anger include hypertension, increased cholesterol levels, damaged or blocked arteries, increased susceptibility to infection, and depression.

You have taken the first step in admitting you have a problem. Now it is up to you to seek the counseling you need to get control of your anger issues. Otherwise, the pain of continual staff turnover will be your lot.

Best wishes,


Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Her book, Manage Your Practice Well, is available for purchase at For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at [email protected] or call her at (301) 874-5240.

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