The Dental Office Manager’s Guide to Creating Harmony
Seems like a completely unrealistic goal, and one that would require a psychology degree with a minor in conflict resolution, but it can be done. Take a step back and look at how you interact with your co-workers and doctors. What does everyone else see you doing and hear you saying? I believe creating harmony starts with ourselves and when we accomplish that, we can continue that journey to help the entire office.
There is no office without any conflict, so be realistic about your goals. In large offices, personalities will clash and not everyone gets along. Encourage your team members to recognize their differences. If you have a problem with gossip, address it with the entire team, but realize you can never prevent it. Ask your staff to choose their words carefully and more importantly, stay busy! The best thing to do is address conflict head on and not ignore it.
Regardless if you are the office manager, the doctor, an assistant or the sterilization technician, anyone can change their attitude. It’s old news that negativity is more powerful and spreads faster, so the challenge is deciding what behavior we allow our co-workers to see. Let’s look at the trickledown effect in a dental practice: The doctor’s personality can sometimes determine the “temperature” of the office. The office manager may be responsible for being a “buffer” if the dentist/owner doesn’t have the best leadership skills. This gives you the unique opportunity to show them how to deal with the good, the bad and the ugly.
I get it – easier said than done. If you type “improve morale” into a Google search, you will get more information than you know what to do with. What you want to look at is yourself. Are you happy and healthy? Does everyone on the team have what they need to do their jobs effectively and ethically? You can instantly improve morale by individually thanking team members, making eye contact and showing them you appreciate them. Practice doing this and then move on to more advance activities like team-building games and activities that encourage team members to step out of their comfort zone.
I realize not every office manager jumps out of bed and bounces into the office with limitless energy, but find ways to have fun while you are there. The Internet is full of ideas, some which require little to no materials. Reach out to other offices on dental Facebook groups or call colleagues that work for larger companies outside of the dental industry. Throughout the day send funny dental jokes through the software’s messenger system and recognize all small victories, like meeting a new patient goal or a good survey result. The options are endless, but it helps to plan ahead. I recommend planning a week or month at a time.
Office managers are busy and sometimes overwhelmed. The key is avoiding burn-out and finding the good in what you do. We are asked to do things that challenge our ethics and might even keep us up at night, but that is a choice we can make. There are some days that I have to sit in my car at lunch and remind myself that I absolutely love what I do and things can be worse, but they are not. Embrace what you do and create harmony in your mind first, then imagine how you project that to everyone else.
Bridget Fay, BBA