Managing Millennials – Friends, Phones, and Feedback
Much loved or much maligned, Millennials are the largest generation - roughly 80 million - to enter the workplace since the Baby Boomers. Raised by doting, often over-protective parents, they tend to have strong relationships with them. As a result, many live at home or are dependent on parents to some extent well into their 20s. They’ve long been taught to be team players, and everyone gets a trophy no matter where they place in the race.
What we see in the dental practice backs up some of the common generalizations. In particular, Millennials tend to be sharp and are quick to learn new things. A generation of gadget geeks, they easily embrace technology, much more so than their Boomer or even Gen X counterparts. They also have high expectations that they will be provided the tools and training to perform at their best. After all, this is the most educated generation to enter the workplace. And many will happily embrace new challenges and opportunities if you help them succeed.
They’ve been told they’re wonderful for a very long time, so they tend to be self-assured. In some cases, this generation is so confident that what they’ve done is right, they don’t check their work.
Millennials are social, connecting to friends and family, texting, posting on social media, shopping, and doing it all with the help of their Smartphones. These are a huge distraction and a major source of contention between the generations in the dental practice. Millennial business staff think nothing of having their cell phones out at the front desk, firing off a quick text to a friend, Tweeting, or watching a YouTube video on the doctor’s time. Assistants and hygienists will keep their phones in their pockets, checking messages and posting on Facebook throughout the day. From cross-contamination concerns to unprofessional behaviors, personal phones in the practice are a problem.
Every dental office must have a cell phone policy and insist that these and other gadgets be put away in a purse or locker. Staff will commonly cry foul claiming that they need to be accessible to their child’s school should an emergency arise. Insist that staff give the office phone as the school’s emergency contact number, and allow employees to check their cell phones during quick breaks between patients.
While an environment that fosters teamwork is important to many Millennials, and they may be optimistic contributors to the group, eagerly wanting to share their ideas, that doesn’t mean they will work past 5 o’clock to get the job done. And that can leave their bosses and colleagues labeling them as poor team players. Known to be job hoppers, they won’t stick around if yours is a poorly led, dysfunctional team.
While some studies have labeled Millennials as feedback needy, the fact is that in the dental practice, employees have been craving feedback and direction for decades. And practices of all generations consistently find that when employees have clear job descriptions, understand how their performance will be measured, and receive ongoing constructive feedback, the team is far more effective and consistent in delivering excellent care and service to patients.
Millennials are commonly said to be the most altruistic and place a higher priority on making a difference. While this may be common in some circles, Millennials in the dental practice are very interested in compensation, and believe that they are every bit as deserving of the same salary or compensation rate as their older and more experienced colleagues and co-workers. It is particularly important that Millennials, as well as other employees on staff, clearly understand under what circumstances raises and promotions are awarded.
Once you’ve taken some time to better understand your Millennial employees, consider your patients. Keep in mind that those at the front end of the generation are in their early 30s. They have careers and are establishing families. Dental practices that are still calling patients to confirm appointments are operating in the dark ages. Millennials expect you to communicate with them using the tools and technology that they use, in particular, text messaging. They want products and services quickly and easily, so they won’t wait weeks, let alone months, for an appointment. The Internet is where they will search for your services, so make sure your website is fully optimized. And they are more likely to post reviews about their experiences than Gen X or Boomers.
Take time to better understand Millennials. They are the future of your practice.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Are You Brushing Your Brain?
There was a time when people didn’t brush their teeth. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? In the United States, brushing teeth did not become routine until after World War II. Today we know that oral hygiene is an important part of good health. Without removing plaque, we develop cavities, gum disease and eventual tooth loss. Ultimately that impacts physical wellbeing. You can have a heart attack from the germs that come from an unhealthy mouth!
In many ways, our brains are no different. Unless we are aware of what we are thinking and believing, mental tartar builds up and distorts our perceptions of the world. It’s because our brains naturally hold onto negative experiences more than positive ones. That built-in negativity bias helps keep us safe, but unless we pause to examine those fears and anxieties, we have a warped sense of reality. Dr. Dan Siegel refers to mindfulness practice as “good brain hygiene” that is as important as brushing our teeth.
Our brains are wired for survival. Bad things are remembered more than something good. This means that we readily notice and internalize anything negative that happens to us during the course of a day, while glossing over anything positive because we're busy solving problems or scanning for something to worry about. We need to be mindful to counteract our default to the negative. We can make this happen if we take time to savor the many positives we experience in a day but just fail to notice.
As a dental leader, you are responsible for creating an environment in which your employees are nurtured and energized, your patients are served, and your practice flourishes. In the complex and pressured lives we live, we measure time in Internet seconds. Minds become distracted by the urgent at the expense of the important. You become so preoccupied with yesterday and tomorrow that you don’t lead in the present.
Broadly, the state of being mindful is achieved by focusing attention on one’s thoughts and emotions in a curious, open, and accepting way. The actual practice of becoming mindful may look much like meditation. Certainly, formal meditation is something that is done in a quiet classroom with a group of people and a facilitator. But mindfulness can be done at a desk or in an office when a few minutes can be carved out of a busy day.
Incorporate it into your life using a cue such as a red traffic light, just before each meal, or pausing to listen to the hourly chime of a clock. This use of cues can help the behavior to become an embedded habit over time. The practice itself could be nothing more than taking three deep and slow breaths while noticing one’s present state and accepting it non-judgmentally.
You can boost your sense of safety and neutralize the fight-or-flight instinct by focusing on experiences that make you feel calm. We often miss opportunities to practice calmness because we're used to being "on" all the time. Imagine the impact you have on your patients as you rush from one operatory to another in the course of a day. Instead of racing down the hall, intentionally walk slowly and take a couple of deep breaths with each deliberate step.
Raise your satisfaction by savoring feelings of gratitude, accomplishment and contentment. These are strong antidotes to the negativity bias in the brain. Pay attention to what satisfaction means for you and then stop for a moment to enjoy the experience when it happens.
Value the people in your life. Each day focus on the times when you feel cared about as well as when you care for someone else. Notice and appreciate the things you do that make you feel good as a person. William James - considered to be the ‘father’ of psychology - said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Don't let the daily preoccupations with your practice cause you to miss the appreciation you receive from those around you.
If you find yourself going through the day on automatic pilot, irritated by your staff, angry at an emergency patient who should have followed your treatment advice months ago, fighting to gain a sense of control over your life only to fear that you’re losing the battle….STOP. Good mental hygiene pays off. It’s not easy but it is achievable, pain-free and even enjoyable. If you can take two minutes once or twice a day to brush your teeth, you can make time to brush your brain.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here
What Are They Saying on the Internet?
Monitoring what is being said concerning hygiene treatment on “chat” websites is eye-opening. Many times comments are full of misconceptions and are less than complimentary. The profession faces an up-hill climb when it comes to public perception of what we offer and what we do. Here are a few examples:
“I haven’t been to a dentist for a cleaning in over 20 years. I still have all my teeth, except for two molars that came out when I was still going to the dentist. I have all of my wisdom teeth without a problem. My teeth are straight, clean and white, so I think it is a big scam! My daughter does go to the dentist, but when they phoned today to confirm her appointment, I told them no teeth cleaning and no x-rays! They can just do a check-up and surface cleaning but no prodding and poking under the gums to “clean”. Loosening the gums around your teeth seems to be asking for food to come in and settle. X-rays have recently been linked to a very common form of brain cancer so I don’t really think it is necessary to have my child exposed to that every year. Her dentist said that she is lucky because she has very nice teeth. Because of that he wanted to coat her molars in plastic so they wouldn’t get any cavities. I told him to forget about it. He can get his money for his mortgage somewhere else.”
“I have been having my teeth cleaned on a regular basis for about eight years. I feel the more frequently I go for a teeth cleaning, the more quickly my teeth become stained. My hygienist says that this can’t be so, but what is the explanation?”
“My dentist’s office is not clean. The last time I was seated in the hygienist’s chair, I noticed the spotlight above my head was splattered with blood. I changed offices that day.”
“I value my dental check-ups but question seeing the hygienist frequently. I have always wondered if there’s any value to scraping hardened substances off my teeth. Perhaps plaque is actually a defensive layer provided by evolution. I have looked all over and I’ve yet to see a single study that indicates dental scaling has any health benefits.”
“My dentist wants me to have my teeth cleaned by the hygienist every four months; in part, I think, so he can max out my benefits. I don’t think I really need this.”
“Dentists are just as bad as vets for overcharging and unnecessary treatments!”
It is clear that at least in some cases, we are utilizing less than an effective approach in educating our patients about what is going on when they come in for their appointments. Let us assume that if a few people are making comments such as these, others may also be thinking these things. Therefore, when our patients come in for “check-ups and cleanings” it is a good idea to provide as much information as possible about what we are doing and why we are doing it.
The first comment above focused on several aspects of dental evaluation and treatment. He mentioned “cleaning under the gums”, “prodding and poking”, “x-rays causing brain cancer” and “coating teeth in plastic”. Explaining what a perio probing is for before performing the service is important. I typically show the patient the probe and describe it as a tiny ruler. I explain that in a healthy situation the ruler should only go down a couple of millimeters. Otherwise germs and deposits can build up and cause problems. I explain that once deposits are formed they can be harmful. I use an example of a crack in a cement driveway. The crack can let in moisture that can undermine the strength of the cement, with no way to know until the cement falls in. Similarly, bacteria can undermine the strength of the bone and root of a tooth. It isn’t sensible to let the bone and root fail if there is a way to know ahead of time, hence perio probing and taking steps to correct the problem.
As for “cleaning under the gums” I mention that deposits hurt the attachments holding the teeth into the mouth. I say that it would be like having splinters under all of your fingernails. Removing the splinters allows for the tissues to regain health, even if you have had them so long you don’t notice them anymore.
With regard to radiographs, I use a lead chest and thyroid shield and explain that without x-rays the dentist cannot tell what is going on with a tooth. I use the example of taking a car to a mechanic and telling him to assess the motor without opening the hood!
“Coating teeth in plastic” can be explained with the concept of asphalt sealants. Road ways or parking lots last longer when their surfaces are protected. Tooth sealants can be described as functioning in a similar manner.
Having teeth cleaned often makes them stain more frequently? If a patient makes such a claim I would respond that it might be that teeth look so much “cleaner” after a prophy that new stains are more evident to a person.
Removing deposits making teeth less healthy? Plaque being a defensive layer? I use the fingernail example again. If a person never cleans under his nails, the dirt and grime will eventually cause an infection. The build-up will not protect him from germs, but can provide an environment for germs to grow.
Frequent “cleanings” being a scam? Careful explanations as to why more frequent cleanings or scaling and root planing is necessary are important. Patient education brochures can help. Use them!
Blood on the light? No excuse for this. Clean all surfaces in the treatment room carefully between patients!
I have never had a patient compare a dental office to a veterinary clinic, so this is a new one. I would say that both probably have the best interests of their patients at heart.
Our patients do not look at dental care in the same way as we do. Education is a key function of the dental hygienist. Understanding that there may be misconceptions can help us be ready with explanations that may help.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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