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The Office Queen

... her primary aim seems to be bossing everyone around - including the doctor!

Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS

Dear Dianne,

We have a major problem in our office. The problem is the doctor`s wife! Although she is supposed to be an employee, like all the rest of us, her primary aim seems to be bossing everyone around - including the doctor! The way she comes in and leaves whenever she wants is quite irritating. We can`t depend on her for anything. She does not know the computer system very well and constantly makes mistakes. In staff meetings, she rolls her eyes and makes faces when she does not like something another staff member suggests.

Our doctor is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with. I get the impression that his wife intimidates him. When the wife is not in the office, he seems like a different person - relaxed, congenial, and even comical. Not so when the wife is there! It`s as if everyone is walking on eggshells!

As you might guess, new staff members come and go regularly, especially at the front desk positions. It seems that no one can get along with the doctor`s wife.

I like the patients here, the office is close to my home, and the doctor is super. However, the bad situation that exists because of the doctor`s wife is wearing on my nerves and making me unhappy. What should I do?

Miserable in Missouri

Dear Miserable,

The issue of the doctor`s spouse working in the practice is quite controversial. Let`s consider several different factors that contribute to the success or failure of such an arrangement.

Any spouse who works in the practice must have a specified job with written requirements. This person should be expected to abide by office guidelines, just like any other employee, and should be held accountable for the performance of certain tasks. If this basic principle is ignored, the remainder of the discussion is moot.

The scenario you describe indicates the doctor`s wife is acting the role of "office queen," expecting everyone to perform her dictums and function in a purely subservient fashion. Her unwillingness to work regular office hours says that she considers herself "above" everyone else, rather than a member of the team. This type of attitude has a poisonous effect on office morale.

Her behavior in staff meetings is both immature and unprofessional. Everyone should have the right to express an opinion without fear of rebuff or criticism. Otherwise, communication becomes a one-way event, which fosters resentment and low morale. If she considers herself to be the office manager, her lack of knowledge about the computer system is simply inexcusable! She - more than anyone - should have a thorough working knowledge of the system.

You describe problems with retaining front desk personnel. In my opinion, this is the most important staff position. The front desk person literally runs the office. Patients interface with front desk personnel first, be it by telephone or in person. People often base their opinion of the entire practice on their perception of the front desk assistant. Furthermore, the void left by frequent turnover is a costly one. Office systems dangle precariously while new staff members are trained.

The transformation of the doctor?s personality when his wife is not present indicates he would prefer her not to be there. His personality, however, is a nonconfrontational one. He obviously lacks the needed skills to deal with his wife?s negative effect on his practice without Orocking the boatO at home.

Only the doctor can remedy this situation. Given his passive personality, I see little hope for change.

I would like to stress, however, that it is crucial for a spouse to have at least some knowledge of office systems. Spouses are, after all, part owners of the practice. Some serve in an administrative role, performing such duties as general accounting, accounts payable, and payroll. Should the doctor become incapacitated, the spouse may be required to make important decisions regarding the practice. If the spouse knows nothing about practice operations, the results could be damaging. Every doctor, young or old, should outline what steps to take should he or she become disabled.

If a spouse insists on taking an active role within the practice, harmony is essential. To achieve this, the spouse must:

- Identify with staff members? need for recognition, responsibility, and respect.

- Get rid of inflated self-pride and jealousy.

- Treat staff members with kindness, support, and appreciation.

What should you do? You must weigh the positives against the negatives and decide within yourself if you can live with this situation. However, I would never allow it to become a constant source of irritation. If you get to the point where you literally dread to go to work because of this situation, it is time to move on. Life is too short!

Best wishes with your decision.

Dianne

Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS, is an adjunct instructor in clinical hygiene at Guilford Technical Community College. She holds a bachelor`s degree in human resource management and is a practice-management consultant, writer, and speaker. She may be contacted by e-mail at dglasscoe@northstate.net, phone (336) 472-3515, or fax (336) 472-5567. Visit her Web site at http://www.professionalden talmgmt.com.

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