Saving a Near Disaster


Taking a Bad Situation and Making it Right

(Lack of Proper Communication can Result in a Major Mistake)

I so often remind my readers that the majority of us who make dentistry their chosen profession are people who are caring, sensitive, giving, and truly do not like change.  With this said, I want to share a story that occurred with one of my newer clients over the past couple of days.

A new specialist has come to me to help her locate an additional business office team member.  The growth of her new practice is a wonderful thing and certainly something we all look forward to.  She has tried to locate the right candidates on her own without success.

As with all of my clients, I analyzed what steps she had taken and the systems that she had been utilizing.  Conducting my due diligence to collect as much information as I can is also critical to receiving a successful outcome.  I have typically used Craig’s List to post all of my advertising for a number of reasons.  For one, I am always “testing” and observing the job seekers that respond to my ads and the format is one that melds nicely with this system.

  • Do they respond with a cover letter?
  • Does it speak directly to my specific ad?
  • Does their resume cover the areas that I am most interested in? (see my post on The Importance of the Resume)
  • Just the fact that there is some leg work necessary as far as going through the process is of great value to me.

My new client asked me if I ever referred to the website.  I had heard about it (as well as many others of a similar nature), but for me, unless I can continue to follow the methodology that has proven successful, I would prefer to craft my unique and specific ads and stay with Craig’s List.  I did go to the site and quickly realized that I would have to eliminate a number of my “checkpoints” if I were to use it.  Clearly, it’s a quick way for many to locate the groups they are hoping to find since it is a template where the applicant basically just fills out an online form, making the search a bit easier for the employer.  It just wasn’t a venue that I felt was at all effective for my specific style of locating the best choices.

While poking around on the site and conducting a search in my client’s zip code area, I suddenly spotted a posting by one of her current long-term employees.  That’s right, it was definitely someone who is still with the practice and has been with her for 5 years.

I knew for sure that my doctor had no idea, and it was my place to let her know what I had discovered.  I can’t even calculate the number of times that I have witnessed these instances when I owned my placement agency. Usually it’s both the dentist and the team member that would call me within minutes of each other.  Due to the nature of the site and the little that I knew about the employee in question, I felt certain that I could uncover what it was all about.  After all, I’ve been here many times in the past.

I knew that if I didn’t address this with my doctor, it would cause more heartache for both of them, so last evening before we left for a dinner date, I wrote her a note making sure I managed the delicateness of the situation.  Not surprisingly, she freaked out! “Deb, I just gave her a raise!  I know she wants to have more responsibility, but I know she just doesn’t have the ability to handle it.  I am so sick over this. Tell me what I should do. Give her more money? Tell her she can be the Office Manager?”

I told her to stay calm so we could discuss the matter.  So I went off to a quiet spot and spend some time talking her off of the ledge while out to dinner with my very patient and understanding husband.

Getting some of the facts enabled me to put this all into a better perspective.  “She’s great with the patients, the parents and all the team members—“a true caregiver” said my client.  “She loves everyone and never complains, so what could I have done?  I even gave her a raise last week”. By this time, my client was in tears.

What I told her to do is to say very little and let her do the talking.  Tell her the truth very briefly and let her know how we stumbled upon her ad and then just listen. I told her that my guess would be that she was simply “testing the waters” since this site was obviously a plug-your-info-in-and-see-what-happens type of program. Perhaps she was hoping someone else would find her and quickly accept her as an Office Manager.  She was “title” motivated and not “money” motivated.  True to form, this is exactly what happened.  It was a bit of the “running away from home” routine where she wanted to be appreciated, and in her mind being appointed as the Manager would do it.

They had a lovely heart-to-heart and the employee admitted that it was a knee-jerk reaction and she knew she could never leave.  She was looking for some support that she is valuable and appreciated and to be appointed “The Manager” would have made her feel special.

So how do we handle this?  She’s a great employee with a long history, but just doesn’t have the skills (in this case it was organization and discipline) to handle what is required in the management role.  My doctor is sure of this after many years in the practice. What we do is to highlight her strengths (high fives article) and let her know how much we appreciate her and her ability to keep her positive attitude during trying situations, along with her true sincere interest in every patient, parent, and team member.  Perhaps assign her to an area where her specific gift can benefit the practice.  One possibility could be involvement in some marketing or perhaps making her the key person to handle various birthday events or even manage the Practice PR.

I’m delighted to report that we do have happy ending here, and both of them have learned from this experience that it is so important to keep the line of healthy communication going and for the doctors/employers to make certain every employee understands that there will always be an open door policy encouraging productive dialog.