7 Ways to Create a Positive Office Culture in Your Dental Practice

It’s no secret that employees who enjoy their workplace will perform at a higher level and treat patients better. Both of those outcomes lead to a healthier practice with a bigger bottom line, so it’s important to create a positive culture in your office that increases your team’s job satisfaction.

But building a positive culture isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t order your team to be positive. In this article, we offer a few useful strategies to create a positive culture in your dental office.

1. Build Relationships with Your Team

A healthy workplace culture takes its cues from strong leadership. You can’t lead unless your team respects you and you can’t build respect unless they know you. So the first step creating a positive office culture in your dental practice is to start building relationships with your team.

Relationships take time and effort. You can’t be the aloof boss who eats lunch alone in his/her office. You have to be willing to eat together, have conversations about work and non-work topics, share experiences, and genuinely care about your team members’ lives.

Building relationships does not mean being best friends with everyone on your team. You can be friendly, but you’ll still want to maintain some professional distance. At some point, you may have to make hard decisions regarding their employment. You don’t want friendships getting in the way of your ability to make good decisions for your business.

Employees who enjoy their workplace will perform at a higher level and treat patients better.

2. Lead by Example at All Times

If you want your team to behave in a certain way, you have to exhibit that behavior at all times. Your team will look to you as an example. No mission statement, value list, or standard operating procedure is as effective as your behavior.

If you tell your team that communication is important, but then fail to communicate with them at critical times, they won’t take communication seriously. They’ll wonder, “If the boss won’t do it, how important can it really be for us?”

For example, if you expect everyone to be a team player, even if a task doesn’t fall within the bounds of their job description, it’s important to model that. You aren’t too good to answer the phone or take out the trash.

3. Resist the Urge to Gossip

Gossip is toxic to a workplace when anyone does it, but it’s especially harmful when it comes from the owner or a supervisor. It ruins the relationship with the person you gossip about and makes the rest of the team fear that you talk about them as well.

  • If you have a question about a team member, ask them directly. Do not source information from third parties.
  • If you need to address a problem with a team member, do it privately. Do not discuss with anyone else on your team.
  • Intervene if you hear your team gossiping about another team member. Remind your team that gossip ruins the workplace for everyone.

That said, not all gossip is equal. It’s okay to commend and compliment your team to one another, just make sure you do it in a positive way that doesn’t put anyone down.

Good: “Kelly did a great job getting through those sterilizations.”

Bad:strong “I wish you guys were more like Kelly.”

4. Hire Like-Minded People

Team members who get along and like working together will foster a positive culture in your dental office. If you hire someone who is too different from the group, there’s a good chance you’ll create fractures that erode office vibe.

Whenever you hire someone, ask yourself how well they will fit in with the group. If you can, invite a potential hire to work a few days with your team before you make your final decision. (This should be paid, of course.) Ask your team for input on whether potential tires will fit in with the group.

If you have an employee who doesn’t seem to get along with the group, it’s critical that you remove them from the workplace. A disruptive employee who always seems to be at the center of tension – whether through their own actions or simple incompatibility – will poison your office and ultimately give good employees a reason to leave.

5. Identify Everyone’s Strengths

On a football team, the biggest guys defend the quarterback and the guy with the strongest legs kicks the field goals. Your dental office is no different. It’s smart to put people in roles that suit their natural skills rather than force them to behave in a way that’s less comfortable.

According to Gallup, assigning work based on strengths boosts the overall efficiency of your team. Each employee becomes 12.5% more productive when leaders assign work based on strength, which is a big boost for a simple change that doesn’t require you to invest any resources.

Most importantly, assigning work based on strengths makes your team happier. People who perform work that suits them will enjoy their time at the office. They’ll rely on their natural skills (which takes less effort than doing things you aren’t good at) and secure more “wins” that boost overall job satisfaction.

How do you assign based on strength? First, you have to identify your team’s strengths. You can usually do this through observation, but you may find a strength assessment useful. You could also simply ask your team for their input.

Once you know their strengths, modify your office’s workflow to put people in the best positions. You won’t get it perfect, but close is better than nothing. For instance, instead of using two administrators to schedule appointments and handle billing, it might make sense to give each administrator dominion over a single role based on their strengths.

6. Respect Your Team’s Outside Lives

Your dental practice may be the most important thing in your life, but your team members have lives outside of your office. Don’t expect them to show the same level of dedication as you.

Show your team you value them by giving them the time they need outside of work to enjoy their lives. Don’t force them to miss important events, like graduations, weddings, or birthdays. Insist they stay home when they’re sick (this is important for patient help as well). Encourage them to use their paid time for leisure and travel.

This also means treating your employees like investments, not liabilities. Make your team feel useful and needed at all times. Show them you value their contribution by helping them grow. Look for opportunities to give them new responsibilities and opportunities to learn, even if those skills ultimately make them move on from your practice.

7. Foster Strong and Frequent Communication

Communication breakdown is one of the top causes of office toxicity. People who lack the information they need to perform well will grow frustrated with their coworkers and the job.

First, make sure the line of communication is open between you and your team. Encourage them to come to with any questions, concerns, or ideas. Show genuine interest and concern to their input and reassure them that you will always keep their conversations confidential.

Second, build communication into your processes. For instance, if a patient cancels at the last minute, who is responsible for telling the hygienist or dentist? If you bake this kind of communication into your workflow, you’ll minimize the stress that comes from ignorance.

Third, have regular meetings that keep your team informed. A quick morning standup meeting where you go over the day’s patients and any potential issues can be a long way toward keeping people informed.

Finally, use communication to keep the dental office light and positive. Don’t be afraid to use humor, just keep it appropriate for the workplace. Praise your team when they perform well. When is the problem, use solution-focused language to move forward. Avoid blaming people and exacerbating the conflict.

Download this free checklist to make big changes to your office culture right away.

Office Culture for the Long Haul

Creating a positive office culture isn’t something you do once and forget about. As the leader in a dental office, it’s your responsibility to foster a healthy culture every day, even if you feel the culture is already positive.

If you aren’t happy with your office culture, you know that creating a positive one takes effort and time. It’s important to start right away. If you aren’t taking your office’s culture seriously, there could be unseen issues that eat away at everyone’s job satisfaction.