Has Technology Changed Dental Team Dynamics?



This is NOT about Digital Radiography and Computerization

I’m wondering if reality TV has had an impact on how people interact in the work place today.  I say this because I don’t ever recall there being quite as much “drama” in the workplace as I’ve seen in the past 10-15 years or so.  Poor communication skills appear more prevalent today.  Could it also be social media and technology that is changing the way we interface with one another? Is it just me, or are you also observing the decline in the level of conversations and interaction we are experiencing with one another?

Once applying for a position in the dental field was something that was taken seriously, returning phone calls and keeping interview appointments was not just a passing fancy.  Showing up for interviews on time and being totally prepared was the norm.

Then there is the in-office bickering with the usual “she said” and “they said” or “it’s not my job” or “I believe she did that” that are becoming phrases that the practice leader is inclined to try to ignore. But is this the best way to ameliorate these situations?

Getting into the specifics of the drama and inter-office dynamics is not nearly as important as the catalysts that tend to precipitate the conversations.  I am often quoted as saying “It’s not about who said or did what. It’s more important to get to the root source of the problem and why these heated discussions and damaging behaviors are going on in the first place?”

There are numerous reason that the rumbling starts, and if the initial source isn’t identified the continuation of the saga can go on for a while; or perhaps things might subside but resurface days, weeks or months later, usually due to the same stimuli that caused the background noise initially.

So how are these things nipped in the bud?  It’s clear that the team really does work well together and gets along most of the time, so how might we avoid these unfortunate occurrences from rearing its ugly head again?  And what about the job seekers that seem to be legitimately interested in moving the hiring process forward and just drop out of sight?

The melody is usually the same, but the words can change. Why we go round and round with these unnecessary events so often is beyond me.  The real reason is because the true catalyst is never uncovered, and if it ever is, it’s usually not discussed openly in the hopes that with “avoidance” all of this will just kind of resolve itself. But the cold reality is that until it is shared and discussed in a healthy, open environment by the group (or one on one) it will continue as long as it is ignored.

Open, regular, well-organized team meetings where the entire group is encouraged to step up and share in the healthy, respectful conversations are a critical part of keeping a team cohesive and well-managed.  Sometimes with all that is shared, there are still underlying issues that will not be brought to the surface, which is why things never get totally resolved.

In practice the majority of dentists/employers are not at all interested in approaching topics that require them to step out of their comfort zone, so just ignoring the issue is most often the way such challenges are handled.

Let’s all see if we can–one by one–change the culture that so many practices have locked themselves into and make a concerted effort to make healthy, constructive team  communication a main segment of the practice philosophy. This protocol should be installed immediately and I might recommend that it be factored into the initial team member Practice Policy Manual.

On a personal note, when I see a job candidate drop the ball in any way, I always address it. Granted, it is in the form of a respectful email or phone call and not necessarily in person, but I do let them know the impact that their irresponsible decision had upon me and my client, but mostly for them.  I try to impress upon them that they need to become responsible and considerate professionals or their career could easily take a downward spiral.  And who would have ever believed that there would come a time when employees would not return after a lunch break or resign from their positions using a text message?

We so appreciate the advancements made when it comes to technology and how it has improved the level of care we can now offer our patients.  What a strange dichotomy when we realize how far we have come in our ability to treat our patients, and yet we seem to be regressing when it comes to how we treat each other.

Let’s get back to healthy “talking” and less “texting”!


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