Removing the Onboard Terrorist from your Dental Office…

Last month I wrote about the effects of having underperforming team members employed at your dental office

Inspired by an article in Forbes that came across my desk this week,, I’d like to move the discussion up a notch and discuss the consequences of continuing to maintain positions in your office for toxic employees.

In one social media forum, a dentist bemoaned:

I had a toxic employee for over two decades, If you let time go by without doing nothing about it it becomes a ‘normal’ part of your practice. It probably was my worst mistake in my 33 years in practice to keep such a negative member in my practice.”

 In 2008 I heard a title for such a toxic employee that seemed most apt. And the reason it seemed most apt was because, at that time, in my office, we had someone toxic who had been with us then for some two or three years.

The title given is *Onboard Terrorist*.

The term Onboard Terrorist was put to me in a class on leadership centred around various clips taken from the movie Twelve O’clock High

Although the lesson centred around charismatic leadership and it’s prevailing over other leadership styles, my big take away at the time was the identification of the Onboard Terrorist.

The Onboard Terrorist, in the Dental Office, is the employee that on the surface appears to be with the programme, but behind the scenes, either obviously or subtly, is pulling down the business.

And the reasons may not be obvious.

The Onboard Terrorist appears to be working with the team to achieve the common goal, but in the background, for whatever reason, is severely white anting the organisation.

Much like the scorpion, in the tale of the Frog and the Scorpion.

And they know they are doing it.

Sadly often though, until you sit them down and identify their behaviour with them, they will be in denial.

Discovery and identification and subsequent revelation to the offending employee can almost be like a weight being lifted from their shoulders.

Typically, the Onboard Terrorist is a good employee. They purvey genuinely good business characteristics for a reasonable amount of the time.

However, when they switch to Terrorist mode, their negative affect on your business seriously outweighs any good they seem to be performing.

In this case in 2008, and another case before that, where I identified the role of the Onboard Terrorist, in both cases the Terrorist was having their influence or deleterious effect in the Front Office situation.

To be specific, the Terrorist in both cases was behaving and speaking to customers and clients in a manner that totally undid all of the great work done by everyone else in the dental office that had interacted with that patient during their visit.


And sadly, that position, at Front Office, being the client’s final touch point in their Patient Experience Cycle, is reliant on reinforcing positivity created already during the client’s visit. A terrorist creating a negative experience will override and destroy all the wonderful work established by the rest of the Dental Office Team.

And that, is an Act of Terrorism.

A Dental Office is too small an environment not to have every employee one hundred percent on board.

And when it’s not one hundred percent, those employees not acting in the best interests of the business and the Office will succeed in bringing down the morale of the employees who are on board.

It is the responsibility of management to identify the Terrorist and deal with them.

Sadly, as in the case of true terrorism, there is no redemption.

A terrorist must be excised.

Removed from your organisation.

Because a leopard never changes its spots.

A scorpion is always a scorpion.

In fact, the process of excision will elevate the office leader in the eyes of the other employees.

And the opposite is also true. A leader who fails to act quickly with an Onboard Terrorist is seen to be weak and ineffectual by the team. Allowing the Terrorist to prevail threatens the leader’s credibility and authority.

In both my cases the team raised and rallied following the removal of the Onboard Terrorist.

Team members stepped up to the plate.

And life went on.


One of the key handbrakes exercised by business owners when confronted with Terrorism is that for some reason the Owner feels that the business will not survive without this employee, despite their negative actions.

And that’s why, like in our friend’s case above, some Dentists hang on to their Onboard Terrorist for way too long.

So here’s the test:

If you’re Terrorist is occupying space in your head, then you need to move them on.

Nothing else works as well.

Mark my words….


“Correct hiring and HR” is just one of the modules taught in The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple easy to implement system I developed that allowed me to build an extraordinary 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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