You will never go any further in your practice than the person who has the lowest commitment to your culture and vision: the same as the strength of a chain being no stronger than the weakest link. In the past I have referred to these employees as energy vampires. In a way I think you could also refer to them as toxic workers. They come in many shapes and sizes but they can be categorized into 8 types. A long time ago I promised myself two things when it came to staff: I will never hire anyone I cannot fire, and I will not allow an employee to stay in my office that makes my life miserable. Not a bad creed to live by.
Toxic workers appear for wide variety of reasons, from the negative energy that they give off to a detrimental effect they have on your team. The effects can be wide ranging from making your work environment uncomfortable to seriously impacting productivity and office satisfaction. If you have any doubt as to whether you have one of these toxic energy vampires working in your office, take the test by checking the list below.
1. They are “secret” know-it-alls: These are devious, deluded employees who are perfectly pleasant and agreeable and may be a team player when the dentist is paying attention, but quickly reverts to an annoying know-it-all who can’t seem to allow room for any other opinion but they’re own. I had one once. She was one of my assistants. Passive aggressive personality types are in this category.
2. They act like they are a “made man” like in the Mafia: They act like they have already paid their dues. This is the person that thinks that just because they have worked here longer than anyone else that gives them some level of superiority or a special pass to behave in any way they wish. Often this same staff member gets by doing as little as possible and expects newer employees who are currently “paying their dues” to shoulder a greater amount of the work. Been there. It was an office manger early in my career. I had to free up her future.
3. The “Yeah, but that’s not my job.”: This is a running joke with some hygienists and can be a real nightmare to be around. They will crush an otherwise good team culture. They have a very narrow and rigid view of what their job entails and leave little or no room for flexibility or taking one for the team. They take anything they don’t want to do and treat it as a “hot potato” and quickly pass it along to others.
4. A great self-image for no apparent reason: Often times they think their experience is a tangible commodity. They have this vague notion of their perceived experience, without it pointing to any clearly defined skill set or measurable contribution to the team. In my experience these types of employees refuse to learn new skills, grow, and adapt. Experience can be good, but Dentistry is at a breakneck pace of change and everyone has to get on board and embrace change by learning new things and applying them.
5. The Gossiper: Negative talk and gossip have no place in a dental office. Work doesn’t get done, people’s feelings get hurt, and it takes your focus off of the goal and culture of your practice. Not only is their workload output minimal as a result, they’re often a drain on others around them. A definite “lose-lose” situation.
6. They use peer pressure to hold other people back: These energy vampires treat our dental practices as a reality TV show in which they create alliances and enemies and manipulate others around them to achieve their selfish goals. This toxic staff member manipulates and holds other people back while propping themselves up. Quickly vote them off the island.
7. They are quick to grab the glory: I see this in doctors as well as staff members: Failure to acknowledge any success as the result of teamwork and collaborative effort. They tend to hog the spotlight and pretend that every success is the sole result of their own influence and contributions.
8. They are even quicker to throw others under the bus: This is kind of the flip side of number 7. They are quick to point the finger at others and assign blame when things go sour. These types of people keep everyone on edge and on their toes at work and not in a good way.
If you have checked the box on even one of these types of toxic energy vampires, you need to step up, re-engage, begin to take back your position as a leader, and free up their future. You will never, never go any further than that one person with the lowest commitment to your vision. Each of the 8 types can be a stand-alone reason you will not make it to the next level of practice. I have yet to ever ask a doctor “Is there anyone in your practice that you would not rehire if everyone quit?” and not have them actually name that person. Are you kidding me? Don’t continue to let a person who is sabotaging your practice daily to stay one more day. This is how you Summit: Practice management done right.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS. If you’d like to get a copy of my book, The Super General Dental Practice, you can download it for free here. Also you can purchase a hard copy of the book by clicking here. You’ll find a lot more about leadership in it’s pages.