As a woman, I am well aware of the gender stereotypes we receive in the dental workplace, "catty,” “negative Nancy” and let’s not forget the use of the “B” word. I hate all of these terms, it’s bad enough that some days the office vibe isn’t as positive as it should be, but during this time we need to be reminded how these little comments can affect the entire atmosphere of the office. A negative attitude may start with just one employee and can quickly spread if you don’t curb it as quickly as possible.
How do you turn this around? Deal one-on-one with negative behavior directly and quickly. When situations occur, privately bring the team member into your office, and ask questions. Who knows what going on in someone’s personal life that is affecting their behavior at work if you don’t ask? Asking questions diffuses the situation and makes the team member in conflict believe that you want to gain a greater understanding of the situation.
Address the situation. It's hard to confront people, but if approached with a clear mind and the desire to understand, it can be one of the most valuable and profitable conversations that you have in your practice all day, heck all month! I am a hater of conflict, but when I approach a situation with the thought to understand and resolve the matter, rather than to confront, the conversation is much easier to initiate and is usually 10X better than I ever thought it could be.
Listen and ask questions. Actively listen and seek to truly understand what’s presently going on with your employee. Encourage more details with questions, like: "Tell me more about that." Really listen to what is being said and take definitive action. Sometimes team members don't even know how their negative comments, little quips, and under-the-breath comments destroy the culture of the whole office and leads to resentment among others on the team.
If it's a true problem between two people on the team, set up a meeting and moderate between them to affect positive change. Explain how their interaction affects the dynamic of the entire office culture.
Set standards. Prevent the onslaught of negativity and destructive gossip by establishing a culture guide. A guide sets the expectations for how team members should act on a daily basis. I view this as an office compass, or “True North”, for the entire team, doctors included. The culture guide eliminates the gray areas where negativity can creep in and spells out how negativity decreases overall morale. Base your message on behavior, not attitude. You can’t always change an employee’s attitude, but you can explain how their resulting behavior is affecting others.
Empower employees and solicit feedback. Get everyone’s buy-in! Ask for employee opinions before making major decisions that affect the whole team. The more you listen and give everyone a chance to voice their thoughts, the less likely they will feel adverse about the decision later. This lets you know where everyone stands and gives you the opportunity to address individual concerns.
Don’t lower your expectations. In order to avoid bad behavior, you may find it easier to ask less of the person in question in hopes of preventing future problems. Don’t do this! You’re only rewarding bad behavior and you may be punishing positive (or perhaps less vocal) employees.
Positive reinforcement. Never be shy when it comes to dosing out kudos! Public praise from a leader of the practice will trickle down and infect the whole team.
Negativity leads to reduced productivity and allowing toxic behavior to fester is much more costly to your bottom line than addressing the issue. Build a healthy environment by promoting camaraderie and team spirit, thus creating a culture that is inspiring for your employees to do their best work.