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November 1, 2023

We Have an Awesome Culture…Except For This One Person!

I have the privilege of facilitating Rise & Shine Culture Camps for dental teams nationwide! The Culture Camp is focused on co-creating a happier, healthier, and higher performing service culture!

I often hear the statement, “Judy Kay we have an awesome culture except for just this one person!  BUT, they are really good at their job and with patients.  However, not so good with their team!”  It’s often followed by a statement of reassurance that the same behavior would never be tolerated with their patients.  As if the double standard makes it the toxic behavior to the team somehow more acceptable. 

Unaddressed toxic behaviors will quickly multiply and result in a toxic performer.  A toxic performer is a team member who excels at their job and is toxic to their co-workers! They are often told they are the best assistant or best hygienist etc. and start to consider themselves indispensable. They have a Jekyll and Hyde behavior. Doctors and managers make excuses for the toxic behaviors. They allow/accept it as a tradeoff for skills and work performance. I often hear doctors say, “I know Susie is difficult to work with. We have even lost a few good team members because of her. However, she is so good with our patients. No one can do her job like she does. If she ever treated patients like that, of course she would be gone!” Excusing and justifying the negative behavior is what empowers toxic performers to continue them. Left unchecked theses negative behaviors will continue to escalate.  What is not addressed will be deemed as acceptable by the toxic performer and the rest of the team.  Team turnover will rise as a result. 

One simple standard can change the health of the practice culture.  “The team must treat each other as well as they treat their patients!” No exclusions and no exceptions or they are choosing to no longer be a part of the team regardless of their skills.  That is assuming there is a high standard of patient service and care.  Two great filter questions a team member can ask themselves:

  • Would I say this to a patient?  (If not, how could I say it?)
  • Would I act this way towards a patient?  (If not, how would I act?)

Asking these filtering questions before speaking or acting will alleviate toxic behavior.  Well, that is unless negative behaviors are allowed/accepted towards patients.  

Toxic performers will often ignore standards as they feel they don’t apply to them.  They have their own agenda due to their domination and control issues.  They dominate others to maintain control which they believe builds job security.  Toxic performers are also emotional reactors. They are not in control of their emotions; anger quickly and lash out instead of taking time to understand. They may even pride themselves on being direct when in truth their reaction is instead brusque.  They excuse their directness as they have a superiority complex which promotes treating others as inferior. They believe they are mentally, economically, socially, racially, or physically superior. Their beliefs lead to lack of empathy and justification of dehumanizing actions.

If the toxic performer chooses to continue their negative behaviors, they can no longer invited to be a part of the team. 

Let’s address the elephant in the room!  But what if it is the doctor who is the toxic performer?  Have a one-on-one conversation with your doctor.  Never approach as an entire team or the doctor may feel ganged up on.  Always come from a mindset of care and concern not judgement and criticism.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  They may not be aware of how their behavior negatively affects you.  Doctors aren’t necessarily innate leaders.  However, they can become one.  It’s time for you to make a choice if your doctor chooses to continue their toxic behaviors. 

Say bye, bye to toxic behaviors to work in a happier, healthier, and higher performing practice culture! 

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