Please leave the drama at the door

By Sheri Doniger, DDS, contributing writer

July 1, 2009 -- Editor's note: Sheri Doniger's column, Dental Diaries, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

How many times have you opened your office door wondering, "What mood will my team members be in today?" As a former team member myself (albeit many years ago), I must admit I had those same thoughts about my boss! I had no idea if he would be in a good mood or snarly all day long. I never understood how he did not expect his internal turmoil not to affect the office atmosphere or patient treatment. But patients can feel it.

It is always a concern since the ambient mood of the office, which should be very positive, may be negatively affected by issues that our team brings into the office on a daily basis. Everyone has a life outside of the office, and we have little or no control over what our team members do outside of the office. What about the assistant who has boyfriend problems? Or the business manager who has her own financial issues? A team member who is going to school and did poorly on an exam? Or family issues that aren't shareable? How can you deal with the death of a family member or a pet? All of these things, and more, may happen to our team. What to do?

Implicitly, due to the nature of a professional office, we request that our team members be ethical, honest, and moral. It would ill reflect on the office if they are arrested in an unethical, illegal, or immoral situation and appear on local police blotters. But what about the other emotional issues that occur during daily life? Bringing personal issues or baggage to the office is highly inappropriate, emotionally drains the person involved, and gets in the way of the person performing at his or her best.

All team members should be on the same page at all times. If they are not focusing 100% on their precise role in the office, there may be consequences far beyond forgetting to send out recare cards or reorder impression materials. We cannot afford our team members' minds drifting off to any of the "stuff" that is happening in their lives. Bottom line: We can't afford bad days.

What to do? Leave the personal stuff at the door. Does this work? You bet. Interestingly, I first experienced this "leave your junk at the door" concept at the Pankey Institute a few years ago. We were asked to let everyone know what issues we came with that may prevent our full attention to the educational resources we were going to be offered. After everyone discussed any impediments to their learning, the course went on. It was very cathartic.

Yes, we ask our team members to leave their personal issues at the door. We request that, once they arrive at the office, they focus on the schedule of patients at hand and leave their personal worries behind. What are some strategies for leaving them at the door? Professional offices have mission statements and goals. We reflect on these statements and know that the patient is the most important person in the office at any specific time. If there is no patient in the chair, there is no income. Hence, we treat our patients with singular priority. By focusing on the tasks at hand, we ask our team to dedicate their day to our patients.

There is no reason this cannot be done each morning at the office. We want and need our team in full-force form. It shouldn't be much to ask for them to leave their drama at the door. Place a basket in your reception area. It will be a small reminder to "leave all your worries in an old kit bag and smile, smile, smile ("Pack Up Your Troubles" by George Asaf aka George Powell, 1915).

Sheri Doniger, D.D.S., practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefit company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2009


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