Elephant in the Living Room

elephant sabotagegirl

Sabotage in the dental practice?

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I have been trained in mediation and arbitration techniques.  I felt it would be a helpful skill set for me to have. Working primarily with women in a somewhat close environment, along with all the other dynamics that come with the functionality of the average dental practice, the presence of an objective third party to help resolve conflicts has great value.  Little did I know when I took the course over 20 years ago that it would have such a profound effect in coaching the practices with which I’ve been involved.

During my tenure I have experienced some trying situations; from the team member who physically attacked another team member during their morning huddle, to the front office assistant who carefully and meticulously masterminded a major mistake just to setup her co-worker.

It never ceases to amaze me when I am called in to manage some intricate booby traps or just plain sabotage issues in an attempt to possibly destroy another team member in order to settle some kind of personal vendetta, or to place oneself in a favorable light.

To be sure, these people are not criminals.  They are mothers and wives who love their families, their friends, and often their patients, and wouldn’t hurt a fly.  So where does this sudden surge of negative energy come from?  Why would they take the time to be so malicious and downright cruel? I’ll tell you where I think it all stems from.  It goes right back to that “insecure” and emotional component that I have written about a few times previously.

The nurturing style tends to be prevalent in all of us in the dental profession.  As caregivers we are sensitive, want to be appreciated, and hate to make mistakes or be chastised for errors made. But in some isolated instances these emotions spiral into some outlandish behavior.  Hearing things like “Suzie, you are the best!” or “Mary, what would I do without you, what a wonderful assistant you are” are statements that can really motivate most team members to give their very best. Some require more positive stokes and constant appreciation than others.

Like so many things, there are different degrees.  Granted, there is a lot more that goes into the mind of people that will think to go to remarkable extremes as a method of dealing with their own shortcomings. The examples I’ve mentioned are clearly over the top, but nonetheless I have been privy to many strange scenarios developing from the minds of caring assistants, hygienists and business administrators.

How do we fix this? Honestly, I think in many cases it is well beyond acceptable behavior, and could require professional help.  It still does occur on somewhat innocent levels in cases where a team member simply sees the need to bring up a somewhat innocent mistake made by a fellow team member just so that “they” come up smelling like a rose.

Sounds juvenile doesn’t it?  Well, it is. And much of it can be resolved if we are prepared to do some honest and serious introspection and recognize that some of our behavior is detrimental to both the team and ourselves.

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