Coach’s Corner | Dysfunction in dental teams and the road to redemption

I have seen some very dysfunctional teams – not only in a dental practice, but in other industries, and sports as well. The reasoning is different depending on the environment, but one thing is consistent. At least one person feels they need to be heard, or their opinion should mean more than anyone else’s. 

Think about that for a moment. One employee, not a team member by my definition, feels like their opinion of themselves rises to a higher level than the rest of the team.  This sense of entitlement is very detrimental to any dentist or office manager that is trying to create a true team in your practice. 

This situation will continue to raise its ugly head if corrective measures are not taken.  Case in point, I have a client that went through this a few years ago. Her dental assistant would always tell everyone that she was a team player. However, talk is cheap. When someone asked if she could help with a task, she would reply “that is not my job”. When the doctor wanted to have a team meeting on a day the office is closed, she replied “I can’t come in on my day off – I work enough during the week.” When the doctor told her, she was a member of the team and needed to be there she replied, “I am tired, I do too much already.” I can continue with more examples, but you know where I am headed with this. In fact, while reading this, you might have a picture of someone in your head that reminds you of a past or current coworker. 

All the previous examples are indicative of a bad attitude. I define attitude differently than most people – I believe attitude is based on emotion and environment. I also believe attitudes can change if an individual will allow for growth and change. This client of mine saw so much potential in her assistant that she asked me to work with her one on one. I will make a long story short for our purpose. It took some time to dig down and really find out why she so closely held to her entitlement attitude. 

Apparently, she had gone through a very rough divorce and had previously worked for an abusive employer. By abusive I mean an associate dentist used to throw instruments at her and would yell at her on a regular basis. She was equating her past with the requests that her current employer was asking of her. She had placed a wall around her to protect her and if it wasn’t for the doctor who saw so much potential, she would have been fired. We worked on numerous things for the next few months and she understood how her current employer and team members really wanted to break down her barrier and become a close knit, better performing team. She didn’t realize at the time she was the one blocking that advancement for the entire team! 

I will not use her name for obvious reasons but she worked really hard to improve her attitude and I am happy to share that she is doing very well and the rest of the team is performing better each year. 

Why do I share this with you? Well, this situation is not unique. Many times, there is one employee that gives lip service to being a team member, but their words do not match their actions. I believe the best in people and most want to learn and grow. If you can identify with this situation and you or your team member needs help, please let me know. Until next time, I will see you at the next Coach’s Corner.