As the Handpiece Turns – True-Life Experiences of Team Development Issues

handpiece sandtime

The incredible ‘vanishing’ team member

A large private practice in the Midwest was in a position to hire a number of new employees. On occasion a wrong hire passes through the system, but if there appear to be numerous inappropriate team members on board, then it might be worthwhile to review the hiring protocols that are in place and what might contribute to the ongoing poor choices.

Having to replace a number of employees is not only a very significant financial setback for the business, but it is most definitely an uncomfortable spot to be in as well, as many will attest to. Granted, there are bound to be employee changes and adjustments, but on a grand scale it needs some close attention. The key “players”, doctors, and a lead team member in this case were frantically placing ads and moving perspective team members in and out of the practice for days checking resumes and attempting to conduct cursory interviews.

A couple of the job candidates had Skill Assessments, although there was no structure to their visits and their time in the office was basically a waste. There was no guidance for the job seeker and little or no information shared about the position at the interview, or even as late as the first day they reported for their Skill Assessment or “trial” day. For the sake of anonymity we will call the job candidate in this case history “Barbara”.

Barbara’s initial meeting seemed to go well, at least from the perspective of the employer and key team member that conducted the interview. So at the end of this one hour information exchange, the doctor extended his hand and said “You have the job, Barbara. Please report to work on Monday. Congratulations.”

Now at this point, Barbara was slightly perplexed. What does her job description entail? What are their expectations for her? Who does she answer to, if anyone? What about compensation? There were many unanswered questions that really would have been helpful for her to know going forward, but neither the doctor nor present team member shared any pertinent information with Barbara. And she foolishly neglected to address the issue and get clarification regarding her questions and concerns. She left confused, and she really wasn’t clear about anything but was happy to be hired.

The morning of Barbara’s first day came. The team gathered in the break room to begin their morning huddle. She stood there feeling awkward and uncomfortable. No one introduced her and oddly enough, other than a couple of nods from the team, no one said much. Now she was really starting to worry. Although she was hired as a clinical dental assistant and she certainly knew her stuff, she had no idea as to where things were, who she was to assist, how the doctors set up their trays, etc. She was feeling the beads of sweat forming on her forehead and found her stomach churning. It was as though she was a fish out of water. All her skills and abilities and the various tasks she handled without even thinking, were wiped from her memory and she froze.


Not being formally introduced to anyone, she approached one of the clinical team members who appeared to be extremely warm and friendly to the patients. Barbara figured she would be someone that might guide her. As she began to approach the employee she heard one of the doctors call her name. He was in the treatment room prepping a crown and was clearly in need of help. She went running in to assist him as he said “Quickly, find me a new container of Blue Mousse, please.” This is when true panic set in. She frantically began to look for someone to direct her. Where are the supplies kept? Heck, where is the lab? I have no idea, this office is huge and I never even got a tour!

Before she knew it, after moving around in the dark all morning, it was 1:00 and time for the lunch break. She cleaned up after herself and did the best she could to put things where she “thought” they might go, grabbed her purse to leave for lunch, and realized that she was the last one out of the office.

At a little after 2:00 the entire team was ready to start the afternoon, but no Barbara. Someone asked if they knew where she was when the administrator said, “let’s give her another minute or two”. By 2:20 it was clear that she was really late to return so the Administrative Assistant dialed her cell phone only to hear it go to voice mail. At 2:30 a text came in that read “sorry, I won’t be returning to the office today or actually any day. Yours is not the practice for me.”

Now, let me make this perfectly clear that I am in NO way endorsing the behavior of the new hire and would never support this approach. But what I will say is that much of this scenario could have been saved had the right steps occurred on the front end. My guess is that if proper measures were taken, the interview team would have been able to recognize some of the warning signs and realized she probably wasn’t the right person for the job. And had the proper preparation been made for her integration into the practice it might also have gone differently. The process was doomed to fail for both of these reasons.

The take-aways:

  • Be totally prepared to interview with structure and gather as much information as possible to make a well educated hiring decision
  • Once hired, prepare thoroughly for the first day the new employee has with the team and patients
  • Conduct proper, legally sanctioned due diligence on the new hire prior to making the hiring offer.



6 thoughts on “As the Handpiece Turns – True-Life Experiences of Team Development Issues

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