by Dianne Glasscoe-Watterson, RDH, BS
Over the years traveling across the country speaking and consulting, I have become acquainted with many dentists and hygienists who are very unhappy. The reasons are quite varied, but a few of the most prominent reasons are: perfectionism, personality clashes, financial problems, poor health, sour attitude, disharmony in the home, never being satisfied, and unmet expectations. I believe there are people who have been unhappy so long that they have forgotten how to be happy.
Some doctors and hygienists come to work carrying all kinds of emotional baggage. Some cannot wait for someone to ask if anything is wrong, because this gives the person the opportunity to "vomit" all of his or her problems and spew them on anyone within earshot. Unhappy people like company! They readily recruit others to be unhappy with them.
Another tactic of unhappy people is to play the "silent game" and keep everyone speculating about what could be wrong. They wear their unhappiness like a badge of honor, and their nonverbal communication shouts I'M NOT HAPPY! "Did you see how doc is acting today? I'll bet he had another fight with his wife …" "Something must be wrong with Mary. I could see it on her face when she walked in the door!"
Some doctors are so into perfectionism that team members — no matter how hard they try — can never meet the doctor's level of expectation. These same doctors rarely, if ever, proffer a good word about staff job performance, but readily give out criticisms. Some just keep their frustrations bottled up, because they do not know how to tactfully discuss job performance with their team members. As the bottled up frustration builds, an explosion is inevitable, resulting in a team member leaving in anger and tears, which leads to — guess what — more unhappiness for the doctor.
Some hygienists are disenfranchised with everything about their work. They dislike their jobs, their coworkers, their doctor/employer, and to be honest, if there were anything else they could do that paid as well as dental hygiene, they would get out in a heartbeat. They go to work to get through the day and make another buck. Some people call that condition "burnout," but "cop-out" might be a better word. People who are chronically unhappy are eventually unhappy in any life circumstance.
If the only satisfaction you receive from your work is your paycheck, you of all people are most miserable. The reality is that we need money to pay our bills and live, but money alone will not bring lasting happiness. Just ask any of the countless unhappy rich people in the world! Happiness is an attitude of the heart that is closely tied with being thankful.
Here's my advice for chronically unhappy doctors and hygienists — GET OVER YOURSELF! Get over being insecure, grumpy, hateful, explosive, touchy, unfriendly, perfectionistic, sour, impatient, dissatisfied, disloyal, uncaring, greedy, dishonest, unthankful, or whatever bad attitude you carry. To do this, you need to part with some of the stuff in your life. It is time to clean out your emotional closet and get rid of the junk that has accumulated there!
We all need to be thankful for our profession and the abilities we have to help people. We in dentistry have a unique opportunity every day with every patient who crosses our paths to be more than a caregiver, but also a friend. We can develop connected, lasting relationships that people remember long after the dental care is over. What's wrong with being a bright spot in someone's day? What's wrong with being supportive and caring of each other?
We need to live our lives with an attitude of thankfulness every day. Doctors, you should be thankful every day for your team members, because they are the most valuable asset you have. You may doubt that statement, because you consider your skill to be your most valuable asset. Maybe you should consider that you have limited/no ability to use that skill without the help of your team members.
I recently visited a doctor whom I worked with as a young hygienist many years ago who is recovering from a stroke. His speech has been affected from the stroke, but with slow, deliberate words he said, "Dianne, I hope you tell all your doctor/clients that their staff is the most valuable asset they have. Of that, I am sure."
Hygienists, you need to be thankful every day for your jobs. For the most part, it is the doctor's efforts and money that have provided you with a place to work. You should respect and support the doctor as the owner of the practice and the one who signs your paycheck. If the doctor has wounded you with harsh words and made it difficult for you to respect him/her, at least respect the position. No one is forcing you to work in any particular office. Make the doctor glad you are there, and provide the patients with the most excellent care possible.
Doctors and hygienists, if you are struggling with financial troubles, deal with the problem by getting professional help, making a plan, and sticking to it. Don't take your frustrations out on your coworkers or family. If your problems are marital, again, help is available for you, but do not bring your family problems to work. When you come in the door, leave your emotional baggage outside. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally, but our problems are our problems.
Do you need an attitude adjustment? Do you need to step back and refocus your sights on what is really important, what brings real happiness? Do you need to start treating your coworkers better and put aside petty differences?
Consider these wise words by Chuck Swindoll, chancellor of the Dallas Theological Seminary:
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you …"
Develop an attitude of a thankful and caring heart that is "others focused" and not "me focused." When you do this, happiness takes root and grows.
Best wishes, Dianne
About the Author
Dianne Glasscoe-Watterson, RDH, BS, is a professional speaker, writer, and consultant to dental practices across the United States. She is CEO of Professional Dental Management, based in Frederick, Md. To contact Glasscoe-Watterson for speaking or consulting, call (301) 874-5240 or e-mail [email protected]. Visit her Web site at www.professionaldentalmgmt.com.