Sheri's Solutions: The Three Stooges

2013 08 14 15 37 19 36 Doniger Sheri 2013 200

"How do you refer to your team members?"

I was recently at a continuing education seminar and sat in front of two dentists. As I was settling into my chair, one asked the other, "Is your staff coming?"

"The Three Stooges will be here soon," the other responded.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

That was a first. I was truly taken aback. Do his employees know he refers to them as the Three Stooges? Maybe this is a term of endearment, since they have worked together for so long? But first impressions are everything.

When I mentioned it to my dental assistant today, her response was (after a shocked, open-eyed look), "Why did he hire them if he thinks they are 'stooges'?"

As a woman practitioner, I have been told by many a sales representative at dental meetings to "send over your boss" or "we will talk to the dentist." I have even been called "girl," which is the ultimate slur for a female employee who works in a professional office, caring for the patients who trust the dental practice. I have also heard dentists refer to team members as "the girl." It is rather demeaning to a woman of any age. I hear retail sales people do it all the time. It still isn't right.

Team members do deserve respect. They should be referred to by their own name or title. Name calling may appear to be benign, such as the term "girl," but it may be truly detrimental to the overall climate and culture of the office. Patients will hear you call your team member by a term other than our assistant, hygienist, or business manager -- or simply their name. Think about how that reflects on the practice.

In a year in which we are all trying to retain our patients, the terms we casually throw around our offices may be a reason for our patients to go another way. As a patient, I wouldn't want my care to be relegated to anyone but a professional.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

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