Stop Attitude Problems in Their Tracks
A “bad attitude” is one of the most common and destructive issues in a dental office. Employees with “attitude” can poison the work environment. They hurt productivity and alienate patients. After all, attitude is everything when it comes to customer service. Rolled eyeballs, audible sighs and antagonistic nonverbal gestures - when you ignore those behaviors you grant permission for the negativity to continue.
Unfortunately, many dental leaders throw their hands in the air and believe they can’t do anything to eliminate attitude problems. This is a cop out. If you rationalize doing nothing, you’re just leaving your team to deal with the negativity. Then there are dental leaders with good intentions who confront employees by saying, “You’ve got a BAAAAAD attitude and you better change it fast.” It might feel good to say that, but it’s one thing you should never do. Employees with bad attitudes have probably heard that line from authority figures all their lives. Some are proud of their defiance.
You have no control over employees’ personality traits or beliefs, so don’t ask employees to change who they are or what they think. The solution to eradicating bad attitudes is to talk about specific unacceptable behaviors. Because bad-attitude employees are predictably defiant, it won’t take you long to build a list of specific negative behaviors. Document those observable actions in an objective list that includes the what, when and where of the incident. Follow up by connecting those behaviors to the resulting negative consequences.
For example, you really don’t know for sure what kind of “attitude” Front Office Suzie took with Mr. Smith, who has a large account balance. All you truly know is that Mr. Smith complained that he was treated rudely. And even if you witnessed the interaction and agree that Suzie was rude, stick with the actual behavior. What did you actually see her do or hear her say? Perhaps it was her loud tone of voice or negative head shakes. Maybe it was the fact that she continued to interrupt and talk over him. You’ll increase accountability and improve employees’ performance by sticking to observable actions. In fact, take the word “attitude” out of your vocabulary. It’s futile to use the term. Next, narrow the issue to the exact behavior that reduces patient service or efficient practice productivity. Then describe the impact of the behavior on you.
Here is a revised “change-your-attitude” conversation you could have with your tardy Assistant.
Instead of telling your hygienist that she has a bad attitude because she reads People magazine in the staff lounge when she could be helping other staff:
Rehearse your delivery so it is brief, clear and respectful. Being prepared will boost your confidence when you do sit down with the employee. Conduct the conversation in private. Discuss the situation and explain that her/his behavior - not attitude - is causing a problem. Of course it is always wise to listen to the employee’s response, and to ask how you can help to resolve the issue together.
If you have any hope of modifying a bad attitude, the key is to focus on objective facts. Will the behavior change? Only time will tell - provided that you adjust your attitude about addressing problematic behavior promptly, constructively and consistently.
Challenged by “bad attitude” employees? Contact Dr. Haller at email@example.com.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.orgInterested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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