Keeping your emotions from getting in the way
I was an office manager once, and a darn good one. But without any formal training at my first dental management job, it took me a while to “get” a few things – one of them being how to take the emotion out of the job and remain neutral until I had time to process the situation. When you are dealing with a large team with a lot of drama, it’s easy to get caught up in it.
Is there crying in dentistry? You bet there is. Even doctors cry! But whether you are an assistant, doctor, office manager or hygienist, staying cool, collected and neutral during certain times will make your job much easier, and your boss will love you!
It’s not personal: Having said that, I once worked with a workplace “bully” and it was very hard not to take anything she said personally. I eventually had an epiphany and realized I needed to spend less time on how she was making me feel, and more time on my career and improving the office. Instead of me being the one to complain, I became a “coach” in addition to the office manager. It gave me great satisfaction to help others. Office morale quickly climbed and I started to look forward to work again.
Note: I wasn’t there to just allow employees to “gripe”, it was about helping them find coping skills and getting them to refocus their energy.
You have a job to do: And an important one, at that! Please don’t forget why you are there. You may work in an office with 3 other employees, or 30. Either way, you must be prepared for the fact that you won’t always be surrounded by your best friends. Personalities are going to clash like polka dots and plaid. The struggle is you are in the same enclosed place with your co-workers for upwards of eight hours a day, 5 days a week. That is a long time to spend with someone you don’t like or have issues with getting along!
You must figure out a way to communicate with your co-workers, unless there is an extreme situation of bullying. If that’s the case, and you have previously tried to remedy the situation, you may need to ask yourself if that is the right workplace for you.
Reach out and ask for advice from someone that doesn’t work at your office that isn’t afraid to give you honest input. You may simply be misunderstood by the other person and not realize it!
Be careful who you “vent” to: Like I mentioned before, you spend a lot of time with your co-workers and eventually you may become close friends with some. When this happens, even as management or the doctor, it’s easy to open up and talk about anything and everything. Words fly out of our mouths when we are upset and emotionally charged. It changes the entire dynamic of your work relationships and you won’t even realize it.
What I see when this happens is almost like an office “war”. One person’s opinion or gripe session can skew attitudes towards others and creates resentment, jealousy and a slew of other problems. The listener may not have even wanted to hear about the drama in the first place! So, before you decide you need to “vent”, you should probably wait until you get home to a willing participant or someone that you know can’t repeat it to anyone you work with.
Refocus: Take a step back and look where you can make office improvements or improve your own career growth! My epiphany didn’t come without some research. I became a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers and took as many classes as I could. I wanted to become the best office manager and co-worker, and it was the best distraction from getting emotionally involved in issues that were not relevant.
Even if you are not the office manager, there are associations and social media groups you can join. You will most likely find continuing education opportunities – often for free! You can also find some terrific books on managing and working with difficult co-workers.
Bottom line, I realize some of this is easier said than done. I’ve worked in many offices and I can say there is always more employee drama than patient drama any day of the week. I’ve heard horror stories about mean bosses and situations that just seem helpless. There is always something you can do. Worst case scenario, you find another job, but before you take any giant leaps, please re-read the above. Stay strong and always think before you speak or act!
Bridget Fay, BBA, FAADOM