09.04.09 Issue #391 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Talking at Work: Productive or Just Idle Chit-Chat?

“From the treatment room, I see my staff standing around talking and laughing and I get angry because I am not paying them to gossip.” Jim Freed, DDS.

Having conversations with fellow team members at work can support the morale of the team, provide feedback for more efficiency, create a friendly environment… or it can destroy all three. Workplace talk is necessarily short and superficial for the simple reason that no one was hired to stand around and chit-chat.  To the contrary, correct or focused conversations at work serve very important functions to the success of the day in a dental practice.

The morning business huddle or daily meeting teaches the business system of structured conversation. This is an opportunity for the team to greet each other at the beginning of the morning and to discuss how each can contribute to the success of the day. A game plan is discussed in regards to the patients that are scheduled and everyone knows their part and the position they play. Conversations among the clinical team and business team can spark ideas, clarify confusion and build team loyalty and cooperation.

Workplace conversations between those who don’t often associate with each other during the work day can help soften divisions that might otherwise occur.  The battle between “the front and the back” has no merit when the people involved have the opportunity to air their concerns and ideas. For instance, the following scenario provides an illustration:

Millie Perkins was appointed in Dr. Sharon Clasee’s office for the repair of a front tooth. This practice does not have daily business meetings. During the examination, a treatment plan was drawn up which included not only the repair of the tooth in question (#7 MIL) but also the repair of #8, 6, 9 and 10. Looking at the schedule, Dr. Clasee said to the patient, “I have time today to do all of these teeth if you have time.”  Millie replied, “That would be convenient for me and I really want to look nice for my job interview.”

The treatment plan was entered into the computer as Dr. Clasee anesthetized the patient and then preceded with the treatment. There wasn’t any message sent to the front desk for Jane, the Business Coordinator, as to the change in the schedule as it was assumed that there was time before the next patient. When Millie was released to the front desk for check-out, a conversation ensued that could be heard in the back office. When presented the fees for the treatment, Millie said, “I had no idea it would be this much money, I am going to have to make payments. Can’t you get the insurance to pay more than that?

The Business Coordinator was upset that no one had communicated to her the change in the appointed treatment. Given the information, she could have come into the treatment room and properly informed the patient about her out-of-pocket responsibility.  Jane spoke to the assistant, Mary, about the patient’s reaction and Mary felt that it was Dr. Clasee’s fault for not clearing it with Jane first and not telling the patient how much it was going to cost. Neither Jane nor Mary talked to Dr. Clasee about what had happened for fear of being blamed.   Because there won’t be any positive outcome for this scenario unless it is addressed to Dr. Clasee, this lack of communication is a problem that will happen again and with the same negative results. The interchange between Jane and Mary will be accusatory and both will harbor negative thoughts about Dr. Clasee. This is fuel for gossip and idle chit-chat. 

As an employer and business owner, Dr. Clasee should encourage team communication through the venue of structured meetings. Giving the team a forum to exchange ideas on how to improve business and patient relations is critical to the success of the dental practice and to discouraging non-productive idle chat. Most likely Dr. Clasee is unaware of how the above scenario can affect practice growth over time. At McKenzie Management we are aware of the devastation that lack of positive communication can cause. Learn how to improve your practice today with the Dentist CEO Business Training or one of our other Advanced Training Programs customized to your practice. 

If you would like more information on Treatment Acceptance Training to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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