Attitude is everything

Sept. 29, 2014
Employers seek out a good attitude, not skills

Employers seek out a good attitude, not skills


When you were in hygiene school, I'm sure you remember all of the talk about "professionalism" and having a good attitude. Well, now that you have graduated and are out there looking for your first job or are doing fill-in, how do you feel about that? Was all that talk for real, and were your instructors telling you the truth? Were they just looking for something to take points off for that tardiness to clinic?

It seems there are so many rules and dos and don'ts while you are in school. Now that you are out in the real world, does all of that really matter? You bet your job it does! As a department chair of a dental assisting and dental hygiene program, I get phone calls from dentists very often about finding a hygienist or assistant for their office.

From all the hundreds of calls I have had over the years I have never had this question: How is the student's skills? They know that the graduates have been taught well in our program (I am very thankful for and proud of that). But, the few questions that I always get are these: How is her attitude? Does she get along with everyone? Is she on time? Is she mature?

It is always these "soft skills" that are so important for the dentist's business. They know that their employees have to have these skills, and many times these are the skills that are not always easy to teach someone and are not really inside the dental hygiene curriculum.

Dentists are very practical and want someone that, of course, knows what they are doing and has good skills. But they also know that they do not want the "Drama Queen" (or King). If you can show in your interview that you are willing to learn how they do things in their office and have a go-getter attitude, then you will be placed above others on their potential hire list. Dentists are interested in dentistry, and the majority of them are not office managers or don't really like the day-to-day business stuff to deal with. A big thing they don't want to deal with are employees that complain, whine, cry, or don't try to get along with others on the team.

Attitude can be defined or thought of in many ways, and it may not always be easy to pinpoint. One thing for sure though, if you display a bad attitude, "you know it when you see it." "Companies like to promote positive work ethics because it often results in happier and more productive employees."1 With the job market the way it is in several states and in this slower economy, a dentist has choices and does not have to put up with a drama queen for long. When you put your needs and drama ahead of or in the way of being productive in an office, then you are hurting the office, but you are especially hurting yourself! Your number one goal should be to have a good attitude with everything you do in the office. Your patients deserve a kind, skilled professional that is working hard to help them with their oral health. This profession is not about you; it is about them. Your office team needs a hygienist that works well with everyone in the office and is a team player.

It hurts the office production and bottom line when those with a poor attitude and poor work ethics go hand in hand and it can bring down a good office. And yes, one person can make it horrible for everyone that has to deal with them. "Negative work ethics may be the behavior of a single individual or something more systematic."1 What everyone does in an office is important, but how you face that job is more important. If you are constantly complaining or arguing about who does what, or why do I have to always be the one to do the laundry, then your attitude is showing! Sometimes it is not a pretty picture and we have to realize who is watching. Our patients, our team members and our boss is watching!

So, back to my questions at the beginning of this column. Were you instructors' right in trying to instill "professionalism" in you? You bet they were right! Go out there and find that first job and show that great attitude and willingness to pitch in and help everyone in the office. That great attitude and good work ethics are how it should be and what the office deserves.

Your good attitude can become infectious and make the office more productive and overall happier. "A positive attitude towards maintaining high standards for work ethics usually creates a productive environment in which people take pride in the work."2 A good attitude is always a win-win situation and you can enjoy your profession so much better when you are working with that positive attitude.

Happy scaling and be the best hygienist you can be!


1. Negative Work Ethic Definitions by Robert Vaux, Demand Media

2. Attitude and Good Work Ethics by Tara Duggan; small business by Demand Media Work Ethics, Attitude & Productivity

JANNETTE WHISENHUNT, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD, is the Department Chair of Dental Education at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Whisenhunt has taught since 1987 in the dental hygiene and dental assisting curricula. She has a love for students and served as the state student advisor for nine years and has won the student Advisor of the Year award from ADHA in the past. Her teaching interests are in oral cancer, ethics, infection control, emergencies and orofacial anatomy. Dr. Whisenhunt also has a small continuing education business where she provides CE courses for dental practices and local associations. She can be reached at [email protected].

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