What do gossip and gum disease have in common

Cynthia Goerig discusses achieving an office environment based on teamwork

Dentists want to look forward to going to the office. And although they wish they could just perform dentistry and not have to deal with all of the business aspects of running a practice, they realize that a typical day may include glitches that need their attention before the first patient arrives.

When team member drama is involved, there may be tension and hushed whispers, and the doctor may be visited by multiple team members who update him with the latest gossip, suggesting who is to blame and who did something wrong. Many times the practice owner knows he/she needs to address the situation but doesn’t, hoping it will go away. Throughout the day, similar distractions pop up, as well as scheduling and patient issues, and by the end of the day, the dentist could feel drained and exhausted, privately wishing he/she could just do dentistry and feel the satisfaction of completing cases.

What do gum disease and gossip have in common? It is an infection that can spread without being noticed, and when left to fester, puts the patient or practice at risk and is expensive to treat.

Gossip is a very expensive production killer. The negative energy is off-putting to the rest of the staff and the patients, and creates unnecessary frustration and stress for the doctor. Gossip damages relationships, manipulates emotions, creates competition, causes drama in the workplace, and affects the bottom line. In one case, an endodontic office was burdened with gossip and a team openly at war with each other. When this was addressed, production increased 36%, slightly better than the doctor’s prediction.

Gossip fosters an environment of blaming

A little-known fact: people who gossip are terrified of conflict.

When there is a culture of blaming, people do not take responsibility to solve problems. They would rather make someone else wrong for fear they will get in trouble. People will look to find fault in why something doesn’t work and manipulate your time in convincing you who is to blame.

Now imagine …

Envision an office environment based on teamwork with everyone working in the best interests of the patient — a team that looks forward to going to work; one with camaraderie, support, and problem solving. A culture of celebration is pronounced around the success of the day and a team that rallied to close the office and prepare for the next day.

Imagine not having to remind your team members what they are supposed to do that they already knew, and that it was taken care of. They know the objectives and goals, and are invested in the vision — not only sharing it, but also owning it.

Envision that the team felt safe at work, knowing that if something goes wrong, the whole team will help.That they don’t criticize or judge each other; instead, they look for the strengths in each other and improve upon their weaknesses.

Finally, imagine when leaving the office, the team thanks the doctor and each other, leaving everyone energized, proud of the team and the work they do. In short time, the practice becomes known as one of the best to work for.
The good news is that you are a few steps away from this possibility. (See the steps in the red box.)

The most effective way for a change in a practice to occur is for the leader to model it. I recommend printing out your three to five words that describe the environment you want to cultivate (from question 3) and review them daily.

Inspire your team to make the change, model it, and become the office that everyone wants to work for.

Step One
Answer the following questions:

  1. What is your vision for how people treat each other in the office?
  2. What is your vision for how the team will treat patients?
  3. Pick three to five words to describe the daily environment or culture of the office. (examples — focused, supportive, fun, friendly, professional, caring, etc.)

Step Two
Call a team meeting, and schedule it for 30 minutes.
Step Three
At the meeting …

  1. Share your answers from questions 1-3. Explain why this is important to you, coming from an authentic and vulnerable place, and ask for their help in achieving it. People respond when they feel they are needed to help create the new vision.
  2. Create a “no gossip” rule. Explain why there is no gossip, and how it will reinforce the culture you want.
  3. In closing the meeting, ask if everyone can get behind this and agree by raising his/her hand. When people physically act, like raising their hand, in front of everyone, they feel like they have a choice and are more likely to follow through.

Want more teamwork strategies?

You know teamwork is key to a thriving dental practice. For more tips on how to achieve your teamwork goals, check out Sleep Medicine: A Team Sport here.

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