Are Recalcitrant Team Members Killing Your Business?

One of the difficult things to do in running a dental office is the management and control of staff and team members and performances.

As far as I am aware, there is no real formal training in the skills of Human Resources [HR] for dental undergraduate students.

Sadly, often in my travels to various dental offices around the world, I see pathologic employment situations where certain staff have certain behaviours that are tolerated by dentists and management, to the detriment of the practice, the business and the health and well being of other team members.

Last week in a blog I mentioned a dental office where the Front Office Person had behavior so toxic that the Dentist ended up suffering a nervous breakdown.

Recently I visited an office where the Dental Hygienist was truly toxic. This Hygienist had been in this office for several years, and had been advanced benefits way in excess of her entitlements, along with salary increases to a level way above industry averages and standards.

The trouble was, in this office, that despite the excesses of pays and privileges, the services provided to the office and to the patients by this hygienist were way below those provided by other hygienists across the state.

In fact, “bare minimum tooth cleaner” would have been a flattering description of the service this woman was providing to her employers.

You see, in this case, this hygienist was offering zero to the office, but taking, taking and taking. Certainly not a symbiotic relationship for the office.

Sadly, when I arrived, the seven-year relationship between office and hygienist had seriously spiraled way out of control.

The office had failed to act on the increasing number of patients’ requests to see another hygienist in the office, because of their dislike for this hygienist. In fact, in this office, one of the principal dentists chose to perform hygiene on way too many patients…a sure sign of nonconformity from the recalcitrant hygienist.

Now last I heard in this case was that it had ended up in Industrial Relations Court, which is never a good outcome. Hygienist was “stressed” and claimed being bullied, apparently as a result of being asked to perform duties that we all know a superstar well-trained hygienist just loves to do…

Very very sad really.

I’m sorry to lead with such devastating stories. And maybe you have heard worse.

The fact of the matter is Mr. Dentist, Mr. Business Owner, the fact is that toxic employees not performing to the best of their ability and their maximum potential are having a devastating impact on your business, your other team members, your clients, customers and patients, and ultimately on your own personal mindset as well.

And you know it’s happening. It’s happening everywhere, not just in dentistry.

You can walk into almost any business anywhere and immediately identify the staff and team members that are highly motivated, along with those staff or team members present in the business that are simply going through the motions.

And that’s sad.

Because despite the best intentions of all the motivated staff members and business owners, the recalcitrant staff will always have an effect, an impact, in a negative way on the other team members, and therefore on the work environment as well.

Tolerance, or ignorance of the actions and persona of these recalcitrant staff is toxic to your business!!

But like I said at the outset, HR and Dentistry? There’s never been a formal union of the two. And sadly, that puts the Dental Office way behind the eight ball in the real world…

So what should you do, if you find yourself in a spiraling situation with recalcitrant staff?

Well firstly, just like dealing with a real life medical emergency, you need to take action! Surgical excision, by a specialist.

And that was my recommendation in the situation above with the toxic hygienist.

Once the business owners had arrived at the decision that the hygienist was not good for their business, they then consulted with an Industrial Relations Specialist to put in place the processes for the correct protocol required to end the employment relationship with the least trauma and cost.

Sadly, in life, for whatever reason, there will always be relationship failure, deterioration, and breakdown.

In employment, the aim should be to recognise the early warning signs, and act accordingly to either improve and remedy the relationship, or to end it and move on.

Nobody likes to hear about long painful drawn out divorces. And it’s the same in business.

“Hire slowly. Fire quickly.”  is one slogan I’ve heard.

And it’s true, in principle.

Don’t let the toxic relationship drag on. It will have no benefit to either party, and will be detrimental to other team members and to business morale.

Identify. Respond. React. Cure.



Correct management of staff and team members is one of the benefits of implementing The Ultimate Patient Experience,  a simple easy to follow system that I developed myself that allowed me to build an extraordinary, successful dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

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