Sidestepping the office drama: A third personality profile helps us understand why colleagues behave the way they do

March 13, 2015
I started a series of columns in January to talk about the office "drama queen." What is it about certain personalities that you either love or cannot stand? Personality traits and dealing with coworkers every day can be challenging. None of us are perfect and we all have traits that may grate on others' nerves.

BY Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD

I started a series of columns in January to talk about the office "drama queen." What is it about certain personalities that you either love or cannot stand? Personality traits and dealing with coworkers every day can be challenging. None of us are perfect and we all have traits that may grate on others' nerves.

Many of us can agree that dealing with the personalities we don't like can be the most emotionally draining part of our day. It's hard enough to stay on time with our busy schedules and give our patients the quality care they deserve, but throwing in dealing with the office drama queen can just put us over the edge. Why do we let them get to us? How do we rationally deal with someone who is irrational? It is a skill that can be learned, but it takes some effort and a lot of patience!


Other articles by Whisenhunt


This month, the discussion turns to different types of personality tests and how some offices use these when they interview for new employees. You may notice these when putting in your resume for a new job. I believe these profiles can be used to help you learn about yourself, and also to learn how to get along with and understand others.

We should all respect every professional in the dental field, and I believe it's important for hygienists to learn how to deal with all types of people and their personalities. When you start working, you realize that understanding "people skills" has a place in any work situation or career. I want to remind you of a few qualities in others' personalities that may need some extra understanding, and how you can deal with them.

Two months ago, we discussed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and how these types show different personality traits. MBTI results identify valuable differences between normal, healthy people, differences that can be the source of misunderstanding and miscommunication. Last month, we looked at another personality profile called the Enneagram.

This month, an overview of the DiSC profile completes the series. Each has a unique way of looking at people's behaviors and may help you understand "where they are coming from." An office can purchase the DiSC profile, and there are facilitator kits for trainers. It provides guidance for an office staff to understand traits and gives a way to explain it to employees. The publishers of this profile have many goals:

• Improve communication

• Increase productivity

• Improve employee morale

• Minimize conflict and stress

• Increase management effectiveness

• Build on personal strengths (DiSC website)

In the DiSC Dimensions of Behavior profile, there are four main types discussed. The "D" stands for "Dominance," and this type is focused on problem solving and getting immediate results. These people are normally not happy with the status quo and will question how things are done. They're very independent, prefer direct answers, and are happy doing a lot of different activities. Dominance types like to get down to business and don't spend time socializing if they don't have to. They know what they like and go after it. Some terms that describe this personality are bold, direct, outspoken, dominating, daring, strong-willed, pioneering, vigorous, and competitive. This type gets along with others when they realize others may need to review options before making decisions and may want to ask questions. Others may think that dominance types make rash decisions, but they have usually thought it through and made their decision. They just need to learn to wait on others and not be impatient. (DiSC)

The second letter in the DiSC profile stands for "Influence." These types are great salespeople and good at persuading and influencing others. They are friendly, open, like to talk to others, and are comfortable verbalizing their feelings. They love to tell stories and entertain people. They do not like to have control or deal with lots of details. They can be long-winded and convoluted in their explanations, and they need to realize that others may just want the short and sweet version. Others may need influencers to be more focused and organized. Some influencers may need to tone down their enthusiasm and be more low-key and sincere. To get along with this type, you need to be a good listener and able to laugh with them. You may need to help them focus on details and stay on schedule. Some terms to describe an Influencer type are enthusiastic, outgoing, charming, talkative, good mixer, sociable, appealing, high-spirited, and active. (DiSC)

The "S" in the DiSC profile stands for "Steadiness." These types are very stable and organized and they like order. They're great listeners, so they pair well with the influencers. They are patient, productive, and hard workers. They work best in an environment where everyone gets along. They can be counted on to get the job done, and they like to follow rather than lead. They do not usually challenge authority or the way things are done, so misunderstandings with a "D" can occur very easily. Steadiness types need to realize that others may want to focus on the big picture rather than the details. Terms to describe an "S" are friendly, good-natured, agreeable, sympathetic, gentle, even-tempered, easygoing, kind, amiable, and considerate. (DiSC)

The "C" in the DiSC profile stands for "Conscientiousness." This type is motivated to achieve high personal standards. They are diplomatic and always careful to weigh the pros and cons of a situation. This type is the analyzer and likes facts rather than emotions. They enjoy people who are organized, and like an environment that has clear expectations. They need to realize that others may like to deal with conflict directly, whereas they try to avoid it. Others may like to negotiate and use policies as guidelines rather than the strict rules that the conscientious folks like to follow. Terms that can describe a "C" are logical, careful, tactful, strict, well disciplined, diplomatic, accurate, reserved, controlled, and thorough.

When things get stressful in the office, there is an acronym you can use to help you keep channels open with your communication. HEATING stands for honesty, empathy, acknowledgement, time, information, next step, and gratitude. Speaking honestly and showing concern can go a long way in helping the drama queen calm down. Acknowledging the situation, giving a time frame when the situation can be fixed, giving information to the people who can fix it, and following through with any next steps can help the situation. Lastly, thanking the people who helped solve the situation can help keep the drama queen escapades from escalating or happening again.

In dentistry, there is a place for all personality types and DiSC traits. We can learn from one another and our traits. The main purpose of these articles is for you to learn about other personalities. We need to understand and get along with one another. None of us are perfect and we need to realize that our way is not the only way to do something. Respecting one another's differences should always be the foundation of dealing with the office drama queen.

Whatever personality type rubs you the wrong way, hopefully, after learning a little bit about the different traits, you'll be able to understand people better and realize you can react differently. Only we control our emotions and reactions and whether or not we allow someone to get on our nerves. It's easy to forget that fact and let someone's behavior bother us. We have to take back control and realize that we're the only ones who can give someone the power to ruin our day. Have the emotional maturity you need to take back control and keep it. I know this is often easier said than done, but with practice it should get easier. I hope you've learned about yourself and your coworkers and that the information has helped you. Don't let the office drama queen get to you any longer! Happy scaling! RDH


1. DiSC Preview, 1994 Inscape Publishing Inc. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hayes Ratledge, Success Seminars Institute PO Box 18201, Greensboro, NC 27419 Transformational Learning Opportunities [email protected] website:

2. DiSC® Personality Test | DiSC Profile website:

3. Myers IB. Introduction to Type 6th Ed. to understanding your results on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.: Pala Alto, California.

4. Shouse D. Communicating like a pro: Professional pointers for boosting your communication skills. 2008, SkillPath Publications Mission, Kansas. p 62-64.

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].