Cliques And Queen Bees Equal Loss Of Sleep
I’ve written of the dysfunctional office before, but I’m always hearing of new ways that things go bad when the boss isn’t in control of the staff. The same situations continue to appear with somewhat different guises, but always the same in terms of impact on the practice’s bottom line.
As a doctor, you can have the best advice and counsel on practice management but if you do not foster a collegial and professional atmosphere in the office, all of your efforts will be undermined. Not only that, such situations can easily lead to claims of wrongful discharge, discrimination, and retaliation - not to speak of unemployment compensation claims and other nasty sequelae.
The two most prevalent offenders that the office has: the “clique” or the “queen bee.” These are bad enough separate, but if the office has a queen bee who creates a clique as well, you the doctor are in trouble.
The clique is pretty much self-explanatory. This is the office in which there are a couple or more staff who are bound together to see that nothing gets done of which they don’t approve. Usually, the clique is composed of the most senior staff. Woes betide the new member who doesn’t abide by the unwritten code of conduct that the clique imposes.
The queen bee is the long-term employee who, over the years, has gathered to herself more and more responsibilities. She views herself as the “right arm” of the doctor - and in most situations the doctor has acquiesced in her view. As long as she does her job professionally, the doctor is okay. However, repeatedly we’ve had doctors come to us in desperation because they just discovered that the queen bee has been poisoning the office, chasing good staff away, and often covering up her own failures.
Very recently, a new twist on the “clique” situation came to my attention. We are now finding that associate doctors are just as vulnerable to the destructive potential of cliques as a new front desk assistant. If the doctor’s exposure to a legal claim is substantial when a staff person brings it, consider how devastating the consequences are if an associate dentist is forced out and seeks legal counsel. Because every doctor who has or considers having associates should be acutely aware of this, I’m citing one associate doctor’s own history of what is happening in her office:
The office has a receptionist and two dental assistants who are continuously scheming to get me to quit. It seems they feel I am intruding on their turf because I am a new dentist and they have worked there much longer than me. Because the owner only works two days per week in his practice and is not there when I am working, I have emailed him explaining the unethical and unprofessional manner in which these employees conduct themselves. He refuses to intervene or take any action to stop their bad behavior. He says because he is not there and he has not witnessed the behavior, we should work it out among ourselves. They know he does not back me up, so they do not listen to anything I say - even though the practice owner has stated that I am supposed to be in charge when he is not there.
The receptionist has stolen from me (which I can prove), hidden and shredded my paychecks (they are now mailed), hidden faxes, phone messages and my mail, is rude to my patients, and has intentionally told patients the wrong days and/or times for their appointments.
The two dental assistants make negative comments about me within earshot of patients. They try to intimidate me by bringing in both of their husbands, so that the five of them can sit around and insult me just loudly enough so that I can hear their inappropriate comments. The assistants have also intentionally handed me the incorrect irrigation solution while assisting me, which could have compromised my patient's treatment. They also challenge my treatments/procedures in front of patients, which makes my patients very uncomfortable. Several patients have told me they can feel the tension in the office and have asked my why these people have not been fired.
In this associate’s case, we have the worst of all possible scenarios. First, we have a “queen bee” - the receptionist - from whom the other staff takes their cues. We have the clique actively obstructing and sabotaging the doctor’s work and creating potential dental malpractice claims against the owner. We have an office environment that has become so toxic that patients are questioning it. This means that patients are leaving, or even if they are staying, they are not referring their friends to the office. If we dig a little deeper, we will no doubt find that profits are down because of the inefficiencies that result from such a situation.
Next week, in the second part of this article, I will address the potential for a major legal claim if the associate is forced out, and further discuss the importance of an effective employee policy.
Mike Moore is ranked among the best in employment law and has been named one of the top 10 lawyers in Ohio. As Director of McKenzie's HR Solutions, Mike is the creator of the Employment Policy and Handbook, geared to providing dentists who are unsophisticated in the legal arena with a step-by-step policy manual.
Interested in having Mike speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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