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DB Column – Two Sides of the Management Coin: Favoritism in the Dental Office

February 17th, 2009 · No Comments

star-employeeStaff Viewpoint by Linda Miles – Doctor’s Viewpoint by Dr. Rhonda Savage

Favoritism is common in many dental offices and can cause a serious rift in your practice. Favoritism is a complicated subject, but what it really amounts to is a boss or office manager favoring a particular employee, which puts the other employees at a disadvantage. The unfair disadvantage leads to resentment, lower moral and decreased productivity in your dental practice. The worst part of favoritism is that it can destroy relationships, initiative, and trust!

linda milesSTAFF VIEWPOINT (Linda Miles)
“Did you hear what she said? She’s such a “brown-noser!”

“Why does she always get to leave early? I would get into so much trouble if I asked to go early like she does!”

“Doc listens to her more than to me and I work harder. I know what’s going on, but she never asks my opinion!”

“I don’t know why I even try. I won’t ever have a chance to get ahead in this office because he lets her do it all!”

“I know she makes more an hour than I do and she never follows through with her work! I have to pick up the slack for her all the time, but my doctor won’t do anything about it!”

(From one staff to the new hire): “Don’t bother talking to the doctor about her….she won’t do anything about it. They’re friends! They do a lot together outside the office. She’ll never believe anything bad about her!”

Consider the pain of being in a job where you think the boss doesn’t like you. What can you do as a staff person? Sometimes the staff can feel trapped. They can’t talk to others about their feelings and know the job is a dead end for them because the other person gets all the attention, perks, and freedom to do whatever she wants. In an office where favoritism exists, enthusiasm and spirit can die along with trust and candor.

rhonda-savageDOCTOR’S VIEWPOINT (Rhonda Savage, DDS)
I was guilty of favoritism once. I became good friends with my office manager when I was a young dentist. Over time, she began doing things on office time: paying her bills, making personal calls, and planning her daughter’s birthday party. She came and went as she pleased. There were worse things also: she began speaking badly about me behind my back…. Gossiping about me! She also gossiped about others in the office, creating rifts and tension. The team was unwilling to tell me about the issues because they felt I wouldn’t believe them. When I did find out that she was behaving so inappropriately, we had a talk. She was appalled that I would talk to her about her behavior and left in a huff.
As leaders in our practice, we may be encouraging favoritism without realizing it. Do you send out signals that encourage your team member to mute their criticisms and exaggerate their praise of you? Do you give more praise and appreciation to certain team members and not others? Do certain employees do it all and get all the recognition and rewards? You may inadvertently be creating favorites if this is the case in your office.

If you have trouble keeping a second dental assistant or a second front office person, have you’ve allowed one person to “do it all?”
Your team needs four things to feel they are a valued part of your team, with their top priority listed as number one:

1. Appreciation and recognition
2. Feeling like they belong to a close-knit team
3. Responsibility and feeling like they have a say in the practice
4. Money and rewards

If one team member gets all the responsibilities and rewards, you’ll find you have turn over in the second position.
When a staff person waves the white flag of surrender, ask them to share with you how they feel in an exit interview. If they tell you they’re leaving for a job closer to home or for more money, they’re being polite!


• First, be friendly with all your team, but not friends with any one particular staff member.
• Second, work hard to share appreciation and recognition as best you can. At Linda Miles and Associates, we have a motto: “Hire, train, trust and praise!” Do this relatively equally with all your team members. Recognize that we all have a tendency to favor those who favor us, even if we don’t mean to.

• Third, we like to see that benefits and bonuses are equal among all staff. Pay is personal.

• Fourth, be in close contact with your team. Create an atmosphere where your team can feel comfortable coming to you about things… not just what’s right! Create an atmosphere where it’s okay to talk about what’s wrong in the practice.

• Fifth, facilitate open communication through team meetings, meetings by department, and daily coaching. If you have a team member that is causing a problem, deal with it. If you bury your head in the sand, the problem will get worse. By being in close contact with your team, you can deal with an issue early on and prevent a “molehill from turning into a mountain.”

• Finally, train all of your team and encourage them to be the best they can be! Look at job descriptions within the practice and delegate appropriately. Your team members need to be challenged and excited about coming to work. You can facilitate this by continually asking your team to stretch, be slightly uncomfortable as they’re learning, and then reward them when the tasks are accomplished. Remember to: “Hire, train, trust and praise!”

Don’t miss our upcoming Dental Team Conference on April 24-25 in beautiful Sarasota, Florida!  This conference is designed for the whole entire team and is filled with invaluable information that you can implement the very next work day!  Leave feeling energized, motivated, and ready to go back to work! 

  • Some of the topics include:
  • Communication/ Teamwork
  • Behavioral Styles
  •  Reducing Broken Appointments and Cancellations
  • Improving the Hygiene Department
  • Scheduling/ Increasing Case Acceptance
  • Collections and Insurance
  •  Marketing
  • Leadership

These topics plus much, much more!  So come and join us for fun and learning that’s worth 14 CE credits!


Tags: Administrative · Two Sides of the Management Coin by Linda Miles and Dr. Rhonda Savage

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