Most dentist become very close friends with their staff. Luckily, most staff members treat the dentist as both a friend and still respect them as the boss at the same time. This fine line between the dentist being a friend and the boss can sometimes get strained.
The dentist is put into an awkward position of having to enforce his authority as the boss if the staff member tries to abuse the friendship relationship. I know a number of cases where experienced, long-term staff members have turned from respectful staff to taking advantage of their friendship with the dentist. The staff member starts to come in late, leaves early, takes longer breaks, doesn’t pull their fair share of the work load – in essence, the staff member starts leveraging their friendship with the dentist to take advantage of the long standing rules. The dentist typically responds by very low key requests for the staff member to go back to the correct behaviors. In some cases this is enough to redirect the pattern but in many cases it is not enough.
When friendly requests for the staff member to get back in line with their job requirements fail it is a tough moment in the friendship for the dentist and the staff. The dentist must now put on their ‘boss’ hat and have a serious talk with the offending staff member. This is a challenging conversation because the two have not needed this type of chat for a long time. The dentist must say how much he likes and values the staff member but that the individual must get back into the required office norms. You must say that this is a tough conversation for you to have but that you feel it is a talk that had to be had and that you expect a change in behavior.
Often this talk ends with an apology and a change in behavior – the staff member might even feel bad about taking advantage of the relationship once it has been pointed out. Other times the staff member is not at open to the coaching session and we learn during this conversation that the individual has many other issues they want to address with you and that these behaviors have been a sort of passive aggressive conduct. If the staff member’s complaints are legitimate – then it is an opportunity for you both to take corrective actions.
At the end of the day, you need to have your staff members follow the established rules of the office. In most cases the staff member will go back to their regular and positive working format. In the odd chance that the staff member continues to act against the rules of the practice it might be time for you to let that staff member go. Their acting up even after a conversation about the poor behavior might be their way of forcing your hand in ending the employment.
Sorry – no one ever said being the dentist / boss was going to be easy.
Dr. Corey GoldPresident – advanced Continuing Education Systems