Steps to keep your office safe
Negativity - it’s all around us. My mood changes with just writing that statement. However, it seems that society has not only turned negative but downright angry. We have all seen the reports of people fighting on airplanes for no reason, the ever-present road rage and even something as simple as cutting in line.
We stare in disbelief as some of these incidences can even lead to serious situations, even to death.
But that’s ‘them’; it will never enter into ‘our’ world, will it?
It’s as if our post-pandemic America has lost its ever-loving mind.
Now we are hearing stories of dental patients yelling, screaming and yes, being aggressive in the dental office. It’s not just in New York City or LA, but in all corners of our society. How is it that someone can get to the point that they are yelling about their dental treatment or appointment?
Just this week, I was in an office and told a story about a patient literally screaming at a dental assistant. The situation was that the RDA was conversing with a patient - it began with niceties about their kids and summer vacations, then moved on to the patient’s treatment. Apparently, another patient was waiting to speak with the RDA about something and lit into her about the fact that she was chit chatting with that other patient, while this patient was waiting on her. Umm… what? The language she used was vulgar and incredibly disrespectful.
I’ve heard similar stories when the patients yell about the lack of reimbursement of dental benefits and even at the doctor who diagnosed the treatment in the patient’s mouth.
This intense rage is somehow becoming an acceptable response to anything that someone disagrees about. Fortunately, the team members I’ve met have kept their cool and handled the situation professionally.
Let's discuss ways to kick that negativity to the curb. We cannot control what or how our patients act, however, as a team we can help each other work through these situations.
Take an oath amongst yourselves to keep the negativity out of your own mouths. I recommend that it should be decided when it is a problem that everyone as a team work to curtail any negativity.
A ‘safe’ word can be announced that everyone can use in the event nay saying is heard. A seldom used dental word like diastema, supernumerary or for one office that doesn’t have one in their office - pano.
Think about the words/phrases you use as a team:
o That's not my job …
o Why can't she....
o We've tried that…
o Our patients would never....
o I can't....
o We don't....
o They never...
Have any of these statements been uttered in your office in the past month? These "don'ts", "can'ts" and "won'ts" that are sprinkled throughout the day are conversation stoppers. These words affect the mood of the conversations in your office.
Negativity is a horrible disease that spreads through a workplace at a high rate of speed. There can be 5 positive, upbeat people in an office and one negative Nellie. Within a few short months, 2 of those positive attitudes will begin to show signs of can't, don't and won't. The disease spreads even faster if Nellie holds a place of authority.
Once negativity enters your office, it's hard to stop it. Sometimes the only way to really exterminate it is by showing the cause to the door. It takes a concerted effort by all team members to quell the no we can't, don't or won't to YES we can, we do and we will.
Everyone has to be on board with the plan. Open vulnerability is agreed upon and understood. Try to omit words such as: no, don’t, won’t and above all CAN’T. Use the safe word whenever any of these are used. Try to replace ‘yet’ for but; ‘can’ for try and yes instead of no.
Some steps to consider when anger raises its ugly head:
o If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation, until you cool down.
o Keep your voice low and calm - when voices raise, no one hears anything.
o Try to understand why the negativity or anger has entered the conversation.
o Work together as a team to curb this from happening. If you hear it, step in to help control the situation.
o If the situation becomes increasingly volatile, use your safe word to let the team know that you feel it is getting out of hand.
o Do not be afraid to contact authorities.
Our society is quickly becoming intensely impersonal, unhelpful and downright rude. What is the approach in your office when voices raise, or verbal abuse turns threatening and offensive? Do you have steps in place for when it seems that things are getting out of control? Do you have a safe word to announce to your team that you feel unsafe?
These are good questions to discuss at your next team meeting. It is up to all of us to keep our office safe for the team and our patients.
Denise Ciardello, Consultant
Denise is co-founder of Global Team Solutions. A professional speaker and published author, her enthusiasm and knowledge about the dental profession has helped many dental teams. She brings experience, insight, and creativity into her management style, along with a sense of humor. In a profession that can cause anxiety in some dental employees.
Denise’s consulting approach is to partner with doctors and team members to help them realize the dream of creating a thriving, successful practice.
Denise can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org