Fired up or burned out?

June 1, 1998
Do you look forward to going to work each day or would you rather pull up the covers and go back to bed? Take our quiz!

Do you look forward to going to work each day or would you rather pull up the covers and go back to bed? Take our quiz!

Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH

How are you feeling about your job these days? Keeping employees relatively happy and productive are essential ingredients to success in any business, and dental offices are no exception. The "m" words - motivation and morale - can make your job a delight or pure drudgery.

Take our attitude quiz and find out if your job keeps you fired up, burned out or somewhere in between!

1. When I wake up in the morning and realize that it`s a work day, I feel:

a) fired up and ready to go!

b) a bit sleepy, but once I get going, I`m ready to get to work.

c) depressed; I wish it was my day off!

2. If I`m not feeling quite myself, I call in sick:

a) hardly ever.

b) sometimes.

c) by all means.

3. During my commute to work, I usually think about:

a) what patients I will see today and things to discuss with the team.

b) nothing much; I usually listen to the radio or maybe think about work.

c) turning around and going back home.

4. I am late for work:

a) only in emergencies.

b) occasionally, but never more than five minutes or so.

c) frequently in the morning and when returning from lunch.

5. When I see my coworkers in the morning, I:

a) say a cheerful "good-morning" and really mean it.

b) say hello if we make eye contact.

c) mutter "morning" if someone else says it first, and hope they all keep their distance.

6. When a patient doesn`t show for his/her appointment, I feel:

a) disappointed; but, I look for a job to do or help someone else while I wait for my next patient.

b) neutral; it doesn`t bother me one way or the other.

c) elated!

7. When faced with a few spare minutes during the day, I:

a) work on an office project, clean up a work area or ask others if I can help.

b) take my time with my tasks, like scrubbing instruments slower. It`s nice not to be in a rush.

c) slip into the employee lounge before anyone asks for help and read a magazine or the employment classified ads.

8. When I get behind schedule, I:

a) realize that I need to catch up, but still give every patient my very best. I don`t want to rush my work just for the sake of the schedule.

b) skip a few steps in my routine that aren`t real important (like flossing instructions) and get back on schedule.

c) get annoyed that I`m late and blame it on the doctor, because he never gets in here to do his exam, so I get behind.

9. If criticized at work, I:

a) am appreciative for the feedback and work on correcting the problem.

b) take it personally at first, but after a day or two, I will examine the merit of the criticism to see if it is really a problem.

c) feel crushed, unappreciated and frustrated, chalking it up to one more thing that I don`t do right around here.

10. When faced with a problem at work, I:

a) like to discuss it with my spouse, the doctor or co-workers, maybe at a staff meeting, and brainstorm ideas.

b) mull it over and try to solve the problem myself without advice from others.

c) complain about it to my family and co-workers; I can`t see any solutions.

11. During the day, when I look at the clock, I:

a) can`t believe how fast the day flies by!

b) find myself mentally counting down the hours until quitting time!

c) find that time is slowly crawling by ... it feels like hours and it`s only been 10 minutes.

12. When a co-worker complains about a situation in the office, I:

a) suggest he/she take the complaint to the person who can help get it resolved.

b) listen and often agree with what the person complaining is saying and usually add my own "two cents."

c) join in and launch a personal attack on the person causing the problem.

13. When I have a conflict with a co-worker, I:

a) go to that person and discuss it in private; I don`t like unresolved friction.

b) get angry and probably avoid the person, but I usually don`t discuss it with that individual or do anything about it.

c) assume that person hates me and is out to cause me trouble, so I go and dish to others on the staff about this co-worker.

14. I tend to get minor illnesses, such as colds:

a) rarely.

b) occasionally.

c) constantly.

15. When faced with changes and new projects at work, I:

a) set goals and make sure I am doing my part to improve things.

b) make resolutions that I want to keep, but always seem to forget to follow up on them. After all, everyone usually forgets what they were supposed to do, too.

c) feel too exhausted and frustrated to even consider doing my job differently. What good will it do anyway?

16. My job offers:

a) interesting challenges and opportunities to apply my knowledge.

b) a reasonable paycheck.

c) no variety, no opportunities for advancement, no way out.

17. At the end of the day, my motto is:

a) "all for one and one for all" - stay until everyone is ready to go home or at least until the work is done.

b) "do unto others if they ask" - I`ll lend a hand if I`m asked to help.

c) "show me the money" - it`s quitting time and I`m out of here!

18. When I put the key into the lock of my car at the end of the day, I take a deep breath and think:

a) I really gave it my best today! I feel great!

b) I`m ready to head home for some relaxation.

c) depressed ... I have to do this all over again tomorrow!

19. Participating in my professional organization, I:

a) attend meetings regularly and consider myself an active participant.

b) attend meetings when I have the time.

c) don`t want to spend my free time talking about dentistry; I get enough of that during the week.

20. When asked by a career-seeker if dental hygiene is a good career choice, I say:

a) absolutely! It offers great pay, flexibility and the chance to help people in a very tangible way.

b) it depends. The pay is good, but working in a very small office, close to other people, can be trying at times.

c) look elsewhere. It`s a dead-end, picking dirty teeth all day, not to mention the chances of getting a horrible disease like AIDS or hepatitis.

Let`s look at your score. As you might already have guessed, if you answered mostly "A`s," you are indeed fired up and perky! If you had more "B`s," you may need a slight attitude adjustment. You may be realistic, but you also need to look at the more positive aspects of your job for your health`s sake. And, if you answered mostly "C`s," you have a severe case of bad attitude and burn out. How did you get to this point and what are you going to do about it? Check out "10 reasons office morale isn`t what it should be" below.

Cathleen Terhune Alty, RDH, is a consulting editor for RDH.

10 reasons office morale isn`t what it should be!

1. Lack of teamwork. In a well-functioning team, each person has a different role to play and all function for the benefit of the whole team. However, playing favorites, gossip, an uncooperative attitude and tardiness, to list a few, can really undermine the office morale. Give up the "me attitude" for a "we attitude."

2. Lack of continuance. Change is the only thing that really stays the same in a dental office. When changes are desirable, but there is no follow-through, progress reporting or evaluation, chances are that nothing will really change after all. So why bother to make the changes in the first place? Before setting new goals or heading in a new direction, put some appraisal process in motion so that there is accountability for the new procedures. Then, everyone can know the benefit these changes offer and work to implement and maintain them.

3. Lack of a positive attitude. This is a big problem and a drag on positive office morale. Negativism, self-centeredness or the attitude that "I need mine first" is immature and inappropriate. Having a positive attitude is part of your job, even if you don`t find it in the fine print of your job description.

4. Lack of self-improvement. Personal and professional self-development is a vital ingredient to living. Life-long learning makes you feel more alive and it keeps your brain primed and ready for work. Taking continuing education courses with the rest of the staff can be a great opportunity to brainstorm new and better ways to do your job.

5. Lack of trust. We spend our days in close quarters and we do experience occasional misunderstandings. But, if you resort to guerrilla warfare by undermining someone else on the staff, you are not helping morale one bit. Instead, think the best of your co-workers - give them the benefit of the doubt. Even when you think you have the goods on someone, think carefully before taking advantage of the information. Would you want someone to do this to you?

6. Lack of appreciation. We all want to be recognized with an occasional "atta girl!" or at least have the feeling our employer is glad we`re working there. How can the boss show the staff he/she loves all of you? Let`s count some ways: bonuses, lunch, trips, dinner with the staff at a nice restaurant, gift certificates, money, etc. You can never spoil a good staff too much!

7. Lack of goals. Why are we here and what do we work for? An office mission statement should be able to tell you. If you all have the same goals and vision for how to get there, chances are you will all end up where you want to be. Personal goals are no different. What do you want to be when you grow up? What exciting and interesting things can you do with your dental knowledge?

8. Lack of communication. Listening skills are good, but only if the person talking has something to say that we can visualize. Maybe we also should remember our talking skills - word choices, body language, using less jargon and even our tone of voice.

9. Lack of feedback. It`s always nice to know where we stand with our employer. Getting paid for a job performed is fine, but work is so much more worthwhile when we know our individual efforts are recognized. Regular, fair performance evaluations can guide each staff member to improvement and advancement. It also can stop any employee-performance difficulties before they get serious.

10. Lack of fun. Who says it has to be work? Don`t check your sense of humor and fun at the front door; bring it in to work with you! Why does it have to be tense? Loosen up and derive some pleasure from your workday.