Staying upbeat with coworkers

Work can be a real drag when you don't get along with your coworkers. You already have enough on your plate when it comes to keeping your patients happy, but adding in a dysfunctional work environment can make going into the office a dreaded experience. As a hygienist, you may not be the "boss" in your office, but there are some ways you can act to encourage a positive atmosphere at work. The positivity you emit will spread and make work more enjoyable not just for yourself, but for everybody in the office as well.

BY Kara Vavrosky, RDH

Work can be a real drag when you don't get along with your coworkers. You already have enough on your plate when it comes to keeping your patients happy, but adding in a dysfunctional work environment can make going into the office a dreaded experience. As a hygienist, you may not be the "boss" in your office, but there are some ways you can act to encourage a positive atmosphere at work. The positivity you emit will spread and make work more enjoyable not just for yourself, but for everybody in the office as well.

The first thing you can do to encourage a positive atmosphere in the office is to give respect to all your coworkers. Some people believe respect must be earned, but personally, I take the opposite approach and give respect to others by default. To begin showing respect, ask questions of your coworkers that will lead them to share what they are proud of about themselves. Find out their hobbies, past accomplishments, or anything else that allows them to put themselves in the spotlight. Everybody has stories about themselves that they love to tell. You will show respect by actively listening and your colleague will pick up on it. As a bonus, you will probably learn something new and interesting. Put all past differences aside and give this a try!

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Although showing respect to somebody you've had past differences with may be difficult, the results are amazing. When you give respect, people will begin to respect you back. Likewise, if you show a lack of respect toward your coworkers, they will reciprocate that lack of respect. You cannot control the behavior or attitude of others, but you can control your own attitude and actions toward others. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to start showing respect to another and all the unspoken, or even spoken, negativity will start to fade away.

Besides showing respect for your coworkers, another great way to encourage a positive atmosphere is to set an example of going above and beyond your job duties. While it might not feel "fair" to be doing something you feel somebody else should do, doing so will show a willingness to help out when you can. On the flip side, don't let people take advantage of you either. If you are really busy and need some extra help with something, don't be afraid to directly ask for help. Once you have built up the goodwill of showing you are a team player, you have set the expectation to have the same attitude reciprocated back to you. Remember to be direct but respectful when asking for help. Some people just need to be told what to do and then they are more than happy to help.

It may sound cliché and is certainly easier said than done at times, but keeping a positive attitude will help enable a positive work environment for others. It is easy for groups of people to start dwelling in negativity, and it can quickly become a downward spiral. However, positivity also spreads, and if you are in an upbeat and chipper mood, others aren't going to want to be seen as the negative person. Your positivity will rub off on others and improve the mood around the whole office.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of how to encourage a positive work environment, but if you show respect for others, set a positive example of doing more than what is asked of you, and display an all-around positive demeanor, you will start to see the attitudes of your coworkers change for the better. Give it a shot - you've really got nothing to lose! RDH


Kara Vavrosky, RDH, runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists. Kara serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of GoodMouth, a toothbrush subscription service, and the Advisory Board of Support Clean Dentistry, an initiative to raise awareness of cleanliness in the dental office. Kara currently works for a one-doctor, family-oriented practice in Portland, Oregon.

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