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The vast majority of dental office employees, receptionists, assistants, and hygienists are dedicated to their jobs, to their employers and most of all, to their patients. Not all dentists fully appreciate all the efforts of their staff members because they are busy in their own areas of dental care.

We have seen this in countless offices – hard working staff members doing their very best for the patients and their employer. We believe that a patient can “feel” the atmosphere of a happy dental office.

We are dental patients too and we know when the staff of our dentists  is happy and motivated.

By the same token, we have been in offices where the staff is not happy with the dentist or there is friction between staff members. It is hard to miss sensing the tension in such offices.

So, if we can sense it and the patients can sense it, is it possible that the dentist doesn’t know about it? Well, it is possible that, in rare situations, the dentist is clueless about what is going on with the office staff.

These offices are truly unhappy places to work and can be recognized by high staff turnover and low morale.

Most dentists are aware when there are problems in the office but, often, they don’t know what to do to solve them.

Most of the times, such problems are caused by an unhappy employee. Maybe it an employee who feels unappreciated and/or underpaid.

Some become so unhappy that they can be described as a “toxic” employee. Such employees usually conflict with other staff who can see the effect that employee is having on the patients and the rest of the staff.

Sometimes the “toxic” employee is senior in terms of responsibilities and length of service. In that case, the other employees may feel unable to share their concerns with the dentist.

Even patients may be reluctant to bring their feelings up to the dentist. That is why every dentist needs to be very sensitive to what is going on in his or her dental office.

Good employees are hard to find. If you have a staff member who is going through hard times – like a divorce or problems with aging parents or unruly children – they may not be performing their duties as well as they should. If possible, you should help and encourage them during the difficult time and chances are, they will soon be back as a top performing employee.

“Toxic” employees are different. Whatever their reasons for their negative feelings, they never get better. A truly “toxic” employee has some problem with you or you and your staff that never seems to go away.

So, while every effort should be expended to help a good employee who is having a hard time, “toxic” employees need to be terminated – sooner rather than later. As with all employee terminations, you should follow all state and Federal rules against discrimination of all forms.

But, there is never a good enough reason to keep a “toxic” employee on your staff.