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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Staff Taking Advantage of Your Friendship

Being a dentist can be tough when it comes to staff relationships and I will admit that I have been exceptionally lucky over my career. On one hand you are the owner of the practice (or the boss) and on the other hand, you are a co-worker and an active part of the daily work flow.

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 Gold
President – advanced Continuing Education Systems


  1. I'm excited to explore this blog! I'd love to see how to run a good dental business and hopefully learn from these articles. I'll get started now! http://www.groverdental.ca

  2. I think it's important for the staff to be close to the dentist. They are working as a team together to help the patient, so it's important that they have a good relationship. Although, I completely agree that they shouldn't be taking advantage of the boss. Great post and great tips. Thanks!

    Dean Reese | http://www.joerosenbergddspa.net

  3. Easy, be a boss, not a friend. Especially as a dentist, you're in a position of real authority. It's important to have trust between the people you work closely with, but you don't have to be chummy with them. Our last dentist ran a tight ship, and his staff respected him. That's what we'll be looking for in a dentist when we move. Thiago | http://www.12thavenuedental.com/about_us.htm

  4. I agree with Dean Reese. You do still have to be a boss, but there isn't anything wrong with being friends either. I think offices work better when people are friends. http://www.buffalodentalgroup.com

  5. I think the dentist should always "Put on his boss hat". Not just when someone is slipping up. He should always keep them in line, that's how accidents are avoided. Don't get me wrong, it should be a fun work environment but not to the point where they just always goof around. http://www.parkwestdental.ca/en/

  6. I think so. BTW thanks for it. It carries lot of useful tips which are very helpful while going any dental treatment.

  7. I never really thought about how tough it would be to be a boss and a friend. I can see where the strain comes from on that thin line. I have the highest respect for those who can be friendly, yet still be followed when they are serious. http://www.drruda.com

  8. The role of the dentist and the dental assistants is a very important role. I have always loved my dentist, I drive 45 minutes just to get to the office. The environment is happy and light, you can tell everyone in the office likes each other and likes to work there. For two months I attempted to go to a dentist office that was closer to my house and I didn't like nearly as much. The dental assistants didn't seem as friendly and they didn't seem to want to be there. Needless to say, I switched back to my old dentist. The drive was more than worth it.


  9. I think that this issue is relevant to workplaces in general. Dentists' offices are not the only places where staff members take advantage of friendships with their supervisors. I can see why the cheerful atmosphere would contribute to the problem, though.


  10. I've experienced a similar situation at the workplace. It's a fine line, and it's frustrating for the workers who are trying to help the boss maintain the right balance. Great post and great pointers, thanks!


  11. This is a great post. It’s Very informative and well writing.
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  12. There must be a proper Dental Team Development to generate progress and positive result for the entire dental business.

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  14. I have a cousin who’s working as a staff at the dentist Manhattan Beach. He is also quite close to the dentist, having worked there for many years now, and has observed first hand that the other staffs take advantage of their boss’s friendship. I think that at the end, it depends on the boss, i.e., the dentist themselves, to maintain friendliness with professionalism.

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