How to Overcome Generational Differences
Working in a dental practice, or anywhere for that matter, you’re going to encounter different personality types and working styles. If you want to create a thriving dental practice, it’s important for you and your team to understand these differences so you can all communicate and work together toward one common goal: the success of your dental practice.
Often, these differences are generational. Regardless of where you practice, you likely have employees from three generations working alongside each other: Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) and Millennials (born 1981-2000). They all bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the practice, along with their own work philosophies and priorities.
All too often, these differences can lead to frustration and misunderstandings among team members. We see this play out often in the practices we coach, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. If you take the time to understand each generation and develop solid management strategies, you’ll put together a cohesive team that’s prepared to help your practice succeed.
So what are these differences? Employees from the Boomer generation tend to be known as workaholics. Work is the center of their lives. Boomer dentists devoted many years to building successful practices, which likely took a toll on their family life. Gen Xers and Millennials, on the other hand, usually don’t subscribe to that philosophy. While they’re still willing to work hard, they’re more interested in achieving a work/life balance than spending long hours in the office. They want the flexibility to spend more time with their families, watching dance recitals or cheering at their son’s baseball game.
Many Gen Xers and Millennials also tend to have a strong sense of entitlement. This can be a point of contention with their Boomer bosses and colleagues because Boomers typically think everyone needs to pay their dues. Here’s an example of how these two different philosophies led to trouble in one dental practice, and how it could have been avoided.
“Dr. Barry” is a Boomer who worked hard to build his practice over the years. He didn’t have a problem working early mornings, late nights and even weekends. He wanted to be there when his patients needed him, and his dedication was rewarded with loyal patients who wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else for their dental care. Now Dr. Barry is 63 and ready to reduce his workload so he can spend more time with his grandkids. So he decides to bring on an associate, a Millennial named “Dr. Cassie”.
Dr. Cassie is 31 and has a young family. When she agreed to a 50/50 financial split with Dr. Barry, she was excited by what this meant for her career. She’d finally earn what she deserved, while still being an active parent who made it to every practice and every game.
As you might imagine, problems with this arrangement started popping up almost immediately. The first issue? Dr. Cassie blocked out her schedule so her days wouldn’t begin until after 9 a.m. That way she could help her kids get ready for school. In the fall, she wanted to be finished with her last patient by 4 p.m. so she could go to her son’s soccer games. She was truly committed to her family, but that meant she could only see patients during limited hours – leaving Dr. Barry to cover all the early morning and late afternoon appointments.
Dr. Barry was frustrated, but Dr. Cassie didn’t even recognize there was a problem. The way she saw it, while she sometimes only worked 20 hours a week, she was focused and productive during those hours. She looked for ways to make processes and procedures more efficient, and she always worked through lunch.
It didn’t take long for Dr. Barry to bring Dr. Cassie back to reality. After just a few months, he pulled the 50/50 financial arrangement and told Dr. Cassie she’d now be paid for what she produced, and that she would need to put in more time at the practice. In the end, Dr. Cassie wasn’t happy with the arrangement and neither was Dr. Barry.
This is an unfortunate situation that happens more often than you’d think, but it’s a situation that could have been avoided. If both Dr. Barry and Dr. Cassie would have expressed their needs and expectations upfront, they would have realized they weren’t a good match. Instead, Dr. Barry assumed Dr. Cassie had the same work habits as he did when he was her age. But Dr. Cassie craved a work/life balance, and didn’t see any problem with giving herself a more flexible schedule.
To avoid problems that stem from generational issues, I suggest taking the time to learn about the different generations. You can view a FREE webinar of mine by going HERE. And of course, develop solid management systems, job descriptions, performance measurements and set clear expectations. Communicate with potential new team members and potential associates from the beginning so you don’t end up with someone who just isn’t a good fit for the job. This will help you avoid misunderstandings and frustration, leading to a more cohesive team and successful practice.
Next week: 6 things to know about your Millennial employees.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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