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Undercut By the Dentist


Dear Sharyn,

I am the office manager for a very busy practice. I’m supposed to oversee all the employees and my boss has me doing performance appraisals. But my dentist doesn’t like conflict and so when a staff member doesn’t like something I tell them to do, they go to the dentist and he undercuts me. For example, one of our dental assistants is consistently late to work. She told me she wakes up late because she is working a second job which she says she needs because we don’t pay her enough. So, I changed her start time. Now she comes even later.  The other staff resent covering for her when she’s not here.  I just found out that my boss gave her a raise because he felt bad that she is struggling financially. But what this means is that she has no respect for me and feels like she can come to work at any time.

N.L. Oregon

Dear N.L.,

I feel for you, my friend because you are in a no-win position. Your dentist wants you to do the hard stuff but then doesn’t give you true authority to do so. Therefore, it may be time to renegotiate your job role and clarify what is being expected of you.  Unfortunately, it is sometimes necessary for an employee to have to manage the manager. Sit down with your dentist and share your understanding of your job role. Then ask the dentist if that is his/her understanding too. If it is, then use neutral language to describe the barriers to doing your role well. Be honest about how the dentist’s actions are affecting your job and more importantly how they are affecting the team. Then ask the pivotal question. This may be a difficult question to ask but it gets at the heart of the matter: “So Dr. given these are your expectations for me and for the practice, what will you be doing in the future to support these goals?” If the dentist seems uncertain, then you can suggest the actions you would like to see. Then write these actions down, because you are creating a contract. And to make it even more binding, attach implementation dates if possible and schedule follow-up dates when you will meet again to review how any progress.

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Inspired Us to Dream Bigger, and it Works

“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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