03.27.09 Issue #368 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Office Drama Solutions
Dentist Coach
Hygiene Consultant

Slay The Energy Vampire
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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You’re drained. It’s not even 10 a.m. and you feel like you’ve been at this all day. You should feel good. You are well rested, you ate breakfast and you’ve been exercising regularly, so what’s the problem? You may have had a close encounter with the office energy vampire.

This person likes to control the conversation and be the center of attention. A short chat with one can leave you feeling wiped out. As we talked about last week, energy vampires can manifest in different forms, such as Countess Drama Queen (if it’s happened, it’s happened to her and she’s going to hold you captive until you’ve heard every excruciating detail), Count Misery (hasn’t seen happiness since who knows when, is miserable and convinced that you are aching to be a part of his pity party), Count Spite (nasty, cruel, combative and competitive) and Countess Constant Chatter (who simply cannot shut up about anything). Each vampire has his or her own specific characteristics. Most of them tend to be very negative but one common thread is woven among all of them: They can drain the energy out of a room faster than one of California’s rolling blackouts.

We’ve all encountered negative people, but when they are members of your team or patients in your practice, you need more than a few cloves of garlic to keep them under control and your sanity intact.

Stopping System Collapse

First, if you can, limit the amount of time you spend with this person. If the misery man in your office is looking to corner you for the next 15 minutes with his latest tale of woe, politely redirect the conversation or simply end it. Of course you would love to hear the full story (not), but you have a “to do” list a mile long that you just have to get to. Or put a specific time limit on your exposure to the energy bleed. “I’m sorry Joe, but I only have 5 minutes to spare.”

Perhaps Countess Chatter is a patient who simply insists on telling you all about her recent gallbladder surgery, even though the phone is ringing and other patients are waiting. Again politely tell her that you’ll have to hear all about it another time as there are other patients that are waiting for you. In other cases, Tell-All Tammy, your gossiping teammate, may need to be told in no uncertain terms that you are simply not comfortable talking about certain people, situations or circumstances.

Do not allow yourself to become upset when the energy vampire is completely oblivious to the fact that the patients are lining up, the phone is ringing and she’s standing there consuming your time and your energy. She doesn’t get it. No, she cannot read your body language or see that frustrated and stressed look on your face. The only needs she knows are her own. The only stories worth listening to are her own. The only opinions that matter would be hers.

Try to avoid situations in which you are trapped by an energy vampire. If everyone’s going to lunch and you’re going to be stuck driving the drama queen, tell her you have errands to run before or after you grab a bite. It may simply be stopping for gas, but it’s an errand and you don’t want to be her captive audience if you can possibly avoid it.

Don’t try to solve the energy vampire’s problems; they feed on those problems. Don’t offer solutions, because doing so causes you to become emotionally invested in helping them. The reality is you cannot help them, and they don’t want you to. They get their energy from draining yours, from exhausting you emotionally. They get their “high” from the drama, the suffering, the misery, the non-stop noise that is their own voice. They don’t want you to advise them how to cope, change, improve or address their woes because this is the emotional sustenance that they’ve come to rely on.

Save yourself, and stay calm and detached. You need to separate from their compulsive need to spread negativity. Don’t be afraid to simply walk away. The more frequently you do, the easier it gets.

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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Nancy Haller
Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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How To Fix A Bad Attitude

Ever told an employee s/he needed to “improve their attitude,” only to see nothing change?

The former CEO of the news-headliner company American Insurance Group (AIG) reportedly said that there are only three ways to make a fundamental change in a person's attitude: deep psychotherapy, deep religious conversion and brain surgery. Since it’s unlikely that you’re qualified to apply these methods, how do you fix an attitudinally deficient employee?

First, what exactly is a “bad attitude”?

Most of us know what is meant by the term… kind of, sort of. It’s plastered on motivational posters. Athletes and stage performers are advised to create “positive attitudes.” We use it to describe people who are egotistical and attention-seeking. Perhaps you think it when your assistant is repeatedly late. Then there’s the hygienist who sits and reads People when her patient doesn’t show up. Let’s not forget about the front desk employee who socializes too much with co-workers when the office is extremely busy. All of these behaviors are different but you’re likely to slap the same label of “bad attitude” on each of them.

In truth, “attitude” is a catch-all description of characteristics, behaviors and actions that meet with our disapproval. Unfortunately, although it is a convenient short-hand in communication, the term is judgmental and generally creates defensiveness in the other person.

If you want to have any hope of modifying a person’s behavior, the secret is to focus on objective facts. For example, you really don’t know for sure what kind of attitude 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.

  1. Describe the situation: “Our office policy is that employees need to arrive 15 minutes before the first appointment of the day and attend the morning huddle.”
  2. Describe the behavior: “Over the last week you have been at least 10 minutes late on three occasions. This meant you missed much of what was discussed in the huddle and you didn’t have time to set up your trays.”
  3. Describe the impact on you: “I felt stressed because it meant I had to wait for you before I could start procedures with several patients. As a result I fell behind in the schedule.”
And instead of telling your hygienist that she’s “lazy,” you might try this:

  1. Situation: “There are times when patients don’t show up or there’s a hole in the schedule.”
  2. Behavior: “I noticed when that happened yesterday at two o’clock, you sat in the staff lounge and read a magazine.”
  3. Impact: “I felt disappointed because there are many things that need to be done in the office. I wish you would help out and find other work when you have an open hour.”

If this type of feedback feels odd, help yourself learn to get comfortable by writing down your thoughts in advance. Rehearse your delivery so it is brief, clear and respectful. The goal is to explain not only what the person is doing that causes concern, but why the situation must be changed.

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 behaviornot 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. Granted, you have no control over another person’s behavior, but, by providing objective feedback to those “bad attitude” employees, you give them a fair chance, and you give yourself the opportunity to lead a stronger team.

Dr. Haller is the Leadership Coach at McKenzie Management. She can be reached at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

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

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Angie Stone
Angie Stone RDH, BS
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Hygiene Holding The Line

Although the economy seems to be spiraling downward before everyone’s eyes, dental offices have a way to hold the line. They just don’t know it!

Recently I heard the following:

“We just don’t know what to do. We have all of these openings. The hygienists have begun taking turns taking extra time off each week because the schedule is not full and we can’t afford to support all of them. Some days start out just fine, but then fall apart by the end of the day. It must be this economy.”

I asked the following questions:

  • How many active patients to you have? Answer: “I am not sure.”
  • How many openings in hygiene are you having on average a day? Answer: “Not exactly sure. It seems like a lot.”
  • How many hours of hygiene are you providing currently each week? Answer: “Well, let me think. We have 8 hygienists. I guess I would need to figure that out.”
  • Has your hygiene production declined over the past 6 months? Answer: “Not sure, but it sure seems like it.”

Notice the trend in the responses? None of the questions were answered with a definite affirmative answer. How can offices be sure of the reason they are sensing a difference if they don’t have accurate data to help make that determination? I often compare these practice hygiene issues with a weight loss program because people can relate more readily. A person typically knows if they weigh too much and can tell that they are not eating as they should. If exercise is lacking, they are aware of that too, but do they really know what they weigh until they get on the scale? Do they really know how much they need to lose? Can they determine what the best eating plan would be for them in order for them to lose weight? Research shows people who engage in an actual structured weight loss programs are more successful at weight loss. This is because experts in the field teach and assist the people seeking to lose weight to assess the situation, make a plan to correct the situation and make them accountable for following through.

Bridge The Gap

Hygiene Consulting provides education and systems of accountability for dentists and hygiene teams. Providing professional analysis of the practice statistics, discussing the history that caused the practice to get to this condition, designing solutions to improve the situation and supplying follow-up assistance are all part of the consulting process.

Consider how a Hygiene Consultant can assist a practice to answers the previous questions correctly.

How many active patients do you have? This needs to be determined so the office knows how many patients need to be accommodated. The number of active patients is not the number of charts filed in cabinets. In fact, most often the number of active patients is approximately HALF the number of charts in the cabinet, at best. What has happened to the other half? Are these inactive patients people who could help the hygiene department increase production/revenue?

How many openings in hygiene are you having a day, on average? This number needs to be determined so the office knows how many openings to expect each day. If office staff know what to expect there can be a plan to fill the openings. If there is no plan, the openings remain open and production and revenue decline.

How many hours of hygiene are you currently providing each week? Hours of hygiene offered each week needs to be determined by the number of patients that need to be seen. Typically hygienists are added to payroll when the hygiene schedule is full and patients need to wait for a while to get in for an appointment. This is not the way to determine need for hygiene time. This need fluctuates and needs to be re-evaluated on a three-month basis.

Has your hygiene production declined over the past six months? This needs to be monitored so the office can determine a daily hygiene goal. Without a daily goal, the hygienist simply cleans the teeth and does not look for other things the patient is in need of. These additional diagnosed services can help the hygienist meet daily goals and then meet monthly and yearly goals.

The hygiene department can be a big player in holding the line in these economic times. The answers are there, you just don’t know where to look.. Utilize these answers to take evaluation of the current situation, learn what to do to improve the situation and make the changes that are indicated.

Need help with implementing new systems and products in you hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.
Interested in having Angie speak to your study group or at your next seminar? Click here.

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