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10.24.08 Issue #346 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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I Didn't Say "Good Morning"
What's The Big Deal?

Sounds like a trite thing, right? After all, if people get offended because you didn’t say“good morning they must have some super thin skin. Get over it, you might be thinking.

Well think again.

Employees need to feel that they matter. It’s a human need, really. We all have a basic and natural desire to be acknowledged as significant. When we greet others we convey respect for this need to be recognized.

Now, you may not put much thought into how and when you say hello to someone, but I encourage you to think about it more seriously. It’s been written that when you greet people with a “good morning,” you are actually giving them a blessing. You are telling them that you hope they will have a good morning. You aren’t defining the morning as “good.” You are actually offering a blessing that it should be a good morning.

I got to thinking about this whole exchange of “good mornings” myself, and my thoughts turned to a consultation I recently had with a dentist whose entire office staff threatened to quit. Personality clashes among the employees had intensified to the point that Dr. Smith (not his real name) worried about a mass exodus. He called in McKenzie Management to help stabilize the team and get the practice back on a productive track. You might be wondering how this is related to saying “good morning.” Keep reading.

When I met with Dr. Smith, we decided that I would interview each of his eight employees individually. Here’s a summary of what they told me.

The Good News:

All employees reported positive regard for Dr. Smith. They described him as calm, easygoing and sincere. They respected his dental skills. Employees saw one another as technically competent and ethical, with a focus on delivering quality dental care to patients. Well-networked in the community, referrals from other dental specialists were strong. Patients were seen as the priority of the practice and employees all believed they did a good job in their respective roles. They adhered to the schedule. Patients were seen on time and they were treated cordially.

The Bad News:

Employees noted that interpersonal conflicts have been present for years. Turnover was high. Despite what previous staff had reported to Dr. Smith, the incumbents were convinced that tension and disharmony were significant factors in resignations. There were split allegiances in the office, like Front Office vs. Back Office. The conflicts were rampant. There was an enormous amount of indirect and negative communication. In truth, many of the surface issues were trivial. For example, employees argued over who did or did not go to lunch together. However, these symbolized much larger themes about trust and respect. A lack of team unity was evident in examples of blaming vs. helping when problems arose and/or mistakes occurred. Because no action had been taken, the problems escalated to the point of my consultation.

The conclusion:

On a positive note, no one left the practice. Through a series of team meetings, employees learned to engage in constructive dialogue. Misunderstandings were clarified, resulting in greater trust and commitment.

So how does this relate to saying “good morning”?

The dental team reported that Dr. Smith was disengaged from employees. When he came into the office each morning, he went directly to the desk in his office without greeting employees. Similarly, when he left the office at the end of the day, he didn’t check out with staff. Inadvertently he had created a perception that he “doesn’t want to be bothered.” Though he was “friendly” in the operatory, his introverted and task-oriented demeanor had handicapped his leadership effectiveness.

Social niceties are important. They are the bare minimum of courtesies we can afford to give those with whom we work. Even if you are a strong introvert (as is Dr. Smith), you can learn to mobilize the energy to greet the people who spend 8–10 hours a day running your practice. And if you are like Dr. Smith, imagine the impact of your quiet nature on the people in your office. As one of his employees said, “I don’t feel like he even considers me. He seems really, really locked in his world and isn’t interested in anything other than coming to work to earn a living to get on with his own life.”

The choice about whether to say “good morning” is ultimately yours. Just keep in mind that words can carry a tremendous amount of energy. After all, don’t you wish for every one of your employees to have a “good” morning? It’s in your best interest.

Who did you greet today and why? Talk it over with Dr. Haller. She’s coached hundreds of dental leaders to high levels of engagement with their teams. Contact her at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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