Th 125831


June 1, 2003
Hygienists, like most people, desire to work as part of a team. Feeling that you are part of a well-oiled machine working toward a common purpose is a very important factor in job satisfaction.

by Misty Franklin Perkins, RDH, BS

Hygienists, like most people, desire to work as part of a team. Feeling that you are part of a well-oiled machine working toward a common purpose is a very important factor in job satisfaction. In fact, lack of community is a major reason for burnout.

To create a harmonious work environment, needs to understand her job's purpose, understand what her responsibility is toward achieving the purpose, and receive feedback from her team regarding her performance. This creates synergy. And to be in sync with each other, a dental team needs to understand how each person relates to one another. This understanding is crucial to creating an effective, cohesive team.

We all probably realize that our mission or basic goal is to provide good patient care. Just knowing this is not enough, however. To work on the same page, we need to spell out our mission in words.

It is a great team-building exercise to create a mission statement that is agreed upon and contributed to by all team members. Be specific about all the things you and your patients value. It does not need to be long, just a paragraph that emphasizes your ideal For example, it might be as simple as this: "Our mission is to provide the best possible quality and utmost care to our patients, mutual respect and dedicated service to our co-workers, and loyalty and honesty to our employers."

Once you have the basic goal, your team can to put the mission into action.


Relationships are not always neat and tidy. In fact, they are usually pretty messy. However, relationships are the foundation behind how we interact with one another. We thrive on interpersonal relationships in every aspect of our lives — professional, personal, social, etc. If we dissect relationships, we will find that no two are identical. This is because each person has an unique personality. But within those personalities lie basic traits or tendencies.

How we communicate, solve problems, and deal with conflict usually dictated by our personalities, both innate and evolved. We may have basic tendencies, such as a controlling nature, but that doesn't mean we cannot learn through various situations and life experiences how to be more flexible or tolerant.

Understanding your own personality tendencies and those of your team members will help you work more effectively through conflicts. It will also allow you to emphasize each other's strengths in order to facilitate more synergy toward your common mission.

In the dental office setting, we work in close contact with our fellow team members in order to carry out our mission. Understanding how each relationship functions within the office is crucial to creating a baseline for improving and strengthening those relationships.

Dr. Jim Schoeder, a practicing dentist and Business Management Consultant in Richmond, Virginia, states, "Years of training are spent in acquiring our professional skills, and yet the area of relationships is often overlooked; this is very unfortunate since dynamic, healthy relationships are the vehicle in which we deliver and enjoy the satisfaction of our professional training!"

Personality Profiles

A very enlightening exercise for most individuals within a team is to utilize tools that provide a "personality profile."

There are many assessment methods available, with the most popular being the Myers-Briggs and the DiSC. They either ask questions or present adjectives that reveal certain personality tendencies or traits, and use a simple formula to describe a certain personality type.

For example, in the DiSC personal profile system, four different "quadrants" exist that personify a certain tendency or group of qualities. "D" represents the dominant, daring part of a personality, while "i" represents the influential or social part. "S" stands for qualities relating to steadiness, and routine; and "C" translates into the conscientious or detail-oriented nature of a personality.

While most people have a certain amount of each basic quadrant in their personality, a pattern usually transpires that concentrates more heavily in two of the four areas. Rarely is a personality "flat," having the same quantity of each basic tendency. A personality type, such as "perfectionist" or "practioner" will emerge depending on the quantities in each quadrant.

It is in this graph that we can interpret how each personality within a team interacts with one another. And we can also realize our strengths and weaknesses to boost our qualities within the group. Someone who is more detail-oriented may complement a co-worker who is less so, but is more decisive and communicative.

So often, we let different qualities in others undermine our own, creating a constant friction and struggle. We can create more synergy and harmony if we are more tolerant of other personality traits by accentuating the positive impact that those traits contribute to the team.

As an example, Julie and Kelly are both hygienists in one office. Julie is more of a "Di" personality, whereas Kelly is a "SC." They usually get along fine, and patients receive good care from both of them.

Lately, however, Kelly has become resentful of Julie. When a patient doesn't show up, Kelly will help out the assistants in the sterilization department. Kelly notices that when Julie has an opening in the schedule she "makes care calls" so she can talk to her patients that were seen the previous day. Kelly feels that she is "working" but Julie is "talking."

According to each of their personal profiles, a classical pattern emerges explains certain behavioral tendencies. Julie's pattern reveals an "inspirational" type: These people tend "to shape her environment by influencing or persuading others." On the other hand, Kelly's pattern reveals an "objective thinker" type: These people tend to "work within existing circumstances to ensure quality and accuracy."

By understanding basic differences in each of their personalities, both can understand that they gravitate toward tasks inside each of their natural tendencies. Kelly feels the need to keep the sterilization area orderly, while Julie is better suited to a challenge that her nature desires.

They are both providing a service that is needed by the office: Kelly helps keep the patient flow going smoothly, while Julie extends her care efforts to patient service. The net effect is an integrated positive for the whole office.


It should go without saying that each of us is different. We should celebrate that diversity. Every person adds an unique quality to the organization. While it is very important to accentuate the positive and de-emphasize the negative, we cannot excuse intolerable behavior, or a poor attitude.

Someone once said, "Life is what happens to you and how you react to it." Some people are naturally optimistic even in the direst of situations, while others may tend to play "devil's advocate." It is natural for people, particularly working closely in a hurried dental office setting, to have conflicts and disagreements.

It is not healthy, however, to allow a certain team member to continuously bring down the morale of the whole group. Sometimes it isn't all about personality, but more about attitude.

Occasionally, a person may get caught in a place in her life where she cannot bring anything positive to the environment in which she works. If efforts are made to help that particular team member become a positive contributor and make an honest attempt to regain her meaningful place within the team — and she refuses to take accountability for her negative influence — perhaps the team leader should consider a replacement.

We don't like to admit it, but sometimes "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch." And unfortunately, a bad attitude is contagious.

Many systems exist in the dental office for which detailed protocols have been set. For example, we spend countless hours on and infection control training. Unfortunately, however, we rarely spend time on the key components of what it takes to create synergy in the workplace. Relationship-strengthening, team-building, and leadership-development all contribute to creating a thriving work environment.

Dr. Schroeder emphasizes in his seminars that thriving is very different from striving. Thriving is defined as flourishing or attaining success in a conducive environment. "Striving, on the other hand, is to struggle or to overcome an obstacle in an environment filled with tension and frustration," explains Dr. Schroeder.

Just like with any objective, one develops a thriving office with a vision.

Do you want to be part of a cohesive team that works together to deliver optimal patient care? Starting today, enlist your team in establishing a strategic plan that acquires the necessary tools to create synergy in your office.

Hygienists practice in a harmonious dental team will have greater satisfaction in their work because they feel they are contributing to the greater cause of the group. A team that is able to enhance its members' unique abilities and personality traits is far more able to work out conflicts and create more synergy reaching its goal: taking good care of its dental patients. The efforts of a dental team whose members are satisfied and enthusiastic will translate into the deliverance of exceptional care to its patients.

Those patients will in turn refer other patients, and the whole practice will prosper both financially and emotionally.

For anyone interested in obtaining DiSC Personal Profile Systems for her office, please contact: Schroeder & Stenger Consulting, (804) 909-5100, or e-mail [email protected].

Misty Franklin Perkins, RDH, BS, earned her dental hygiene degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry. She has worked in several states, moving to Natchitoches, La., in May 2001, where she currently works part-time for two dental offices.

The DiSC Model

The DiSC Dimensions of Behavior model describes behavioral patterns in terms of four tendencies. They are briefly defined as follows:

• Dominance (D) — People with a high "D" behavioral tendency seek to shape their environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results.

• Influence (i) — People with a high "i" behavioral tendency seek to shape their environment by influencing or persuading others.

• Steadiness(S) — People with a high "S behavioral tendency seek to cooperate with others to carry out their tasks.

• Conscientiousness (C) — People with a high "C" behavioral tendency seek to work within existing circumstances to ensure quality and accuracy.

All people have all four behavioral tendencies, but in different intensities. The relationship of the four tendencies to each other creates a profile pattern that provides information about a person's potential behavorial responses.

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The Personal Profile System® is not a test. There is no such thing as a "good" or "bad" pattern. Research indicates that the most successful people are those who know themselves and develop strategies to meet the needs of specific situations. The following information is most helpful when reviewed, discussed, and put to use in specific action plans for increasing personal effectiveness.