May 6, 2002

Sally McKenzie’s Monday Morning Memo---Issue #10

Bad Attitude or Personality Issue

Would you get a load of that attitude? Like fingernails across the chalkboard, the approach of certain employees plainly causes you to shudder. At times you are left standing there, mouth gaping, and utterly amazed by the behavior of some staff.

When it comes to dealing with employee attitude, we urge doctors to take charge, and the best way to do that is through feedback to the employee. “Dentists have a tendency to think that feedback is only to be given when the employee is doing something good. But if the employee is not handling something well, they need to be told. Employee performance will increase by 26% if feedback is given regularly, both good and bad.

An employee’s attitude also is often influenced by their personality. In some cases, your introverted employee, who prefers to work alone, may appear to have a bad attitude because she is in a position where she has to work with people all day. If an employee is not in a position suited for her personality, she may be difficult and appear to have a poor attitude. We recommend using the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which is adapted from the Myers-Briggs test found in the book "Please Understand Me" by David Keirsey, and can be accessed online at 

The temperament test, along with the book "Maximize Practice Performance Understanding How Personality Types Affect Dental Practice Success:", will enable you to identify which personality types are working in your practice and whether you have people placed in positions for which they are best suited. There are several different personality types. For example, extroverted types like to have people around them in the work environment. Introverted types do not like to be interrupted by the phone, and will send a letter to a past due account vs. calling them. Sensing types focus on what works now. Intuitive types focus on what is happening in the future.  Thinking types tend to be firm and tough minded, while feeling types dislike telling people unpleasant things like, "You owe $845 for today."  Judging types use lists as agendas for action.  Perceiving types make a list and lose it.  A basic understanding of your staff can be a significant step in determining if you are dealing with an attitude problem or a personality issue.

Realize that different people have different approaches to work.  Balancing an employee's mental capability with the needs of the tasks or systems to be done will provide a better working environment for everyone.

Sally's Recommended Action 

1.   Give all employees' the Kerisey Temperament Sorter Test.  Instructions of
      how to grade the test are in the book and share with each other your
      personality type.

2.   Purchase the Maximize Practice Performance book and understand which
      types are best for hygienists, assistants, business staff, etc.

3.   Make a conscious decision to give positive/constructive feedback to all
      employees on a daily/weekly basis via verbal communication or written

4.   "Nip in the bud" any behavior that is unacceptable by confronting the issue. 
      This can be done verbally or written.

5.   Discuss openly with the team how their temperament type may be holding
      them back from performing to the practice's expectation.

If you would like to e-mail Sally regarding your practice concerns click here


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