2.26.10 Issue #416 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

What Would You Do… More Importantly, What Can You Do?
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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 A popular ABC television limited run series that aired a while back used hidden cameras to observe how people behaved when confronted with a dilemma. It was a different twist on the old Candid Camera series. The show, Primetime: What Would You Do?, enabled viewers to watch the unsuspecting participants in what are typically uncomfortable situations and scrutinize their comments and their reactions.  

As armchair observers, it’s easy for us to sit in the comfort of our homes and say how we would handle these sticky situations, how we, in our infinite wisdom, would do things differently, or how the individual should have done this or that. Admittedly, it’s easy to be a critic. We can judge how others should do things, how they should carry out their responsibilities, what decisions they should make and we’re able to do so with such clarity. In the workplace, some employees view themselves as experts on how everyone else should be doing their jobs, but they seem to have little interest in improving their own performance.

The dental office is no exception. The fact is, it’s easy to become frustrated with the dentist. Staff will lament, “If only the doctor would do this.” “She really should take action on that.” “He needs to be a stronger leader.” “If I were her, I wouldn’t put up with this nonsense,” and the list goes on. Seemingly everyone has an opinion on how the boss should go about doing his/her job. Yet, few employees, if any, have any real understanding of what it takes to be “the boss.”

Consider one of the most common scenarios for second guessing the boss - compensation. Let’s say you are an assistant working in a practice and you feel that you deserve a raise. You reason that you’ve been with the practice for a full year, you work very hard, you are nice to everyone; therefore, you deserve to make more money. When the raise doesn’t come through, you reason that the boss is just cheap, doesn’t appreciate all your hard work, and you’ll just show him/her by finding a job somewhere else.

Now I’d like you to strap on your boss’s shoes and go for a stroll in them. First of all, your doctor may sincerely want to give you a raise, but the reality is that if practice revenues have not increased, she/he absolutely cannot do so. Unlike the AIG model of rewarding employees who drive a company into the ground, dental offices cannot afford to reward even the best team members if the practice is losing money.

Employees have a tendency to assume that all the money that comes into the practice goes directly to the doctor. Unfortunately, in many cases, dentists fuel this misunderstanding because they don’t educate staff on the true costs of running a dental practice. Moreover, in challenging economic times it is understandable for dentists to be very cautious with their finances. The local manufacturing plant may be looking at job cuts, insurance costs may be increasing, and more patients may be cancelling, not showing for appointments, or putting off treatment. The dentist simply cannot afford to increase employee salaries, even though the request may be seemingly minuscule.

The employee in this situation, understandably, is looking at her own circumstances and her own contribution to the practice. She feels she deserves the raise. Consequently, she slides into boss-bashing mode, which does nothing for the employee, the other team members, or the issue itself.  

Rather than beating up on the boss, consider this approach. First, prepare yourself for the fact that you may not get what you request. Although Wall Street may be improving, Main Street is still feeling the financial pinch. And if your doctor cannot afford to give you a raise, her/his first responsibility is to maintain the financial solvency of the practice, not put a temporary smile on your face. What you need to recognize is that raises are not an entitlement. They are a direct result of practice productivity. That being said, you can take steps to help the doctor recognize your increased value in the office by providing a written list of the contributions you have made to the success of the practice.

Next week, document your value to the practice.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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