The Perfect Employee…Until They Weren’t

July 12, 2017 3:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts


Dr. Mack was relieved when Janine came to work for him. The practice suddenly needed a new office manager, and the front end had not been properly supervised in a while. Insurance and billing statements were inaccurate, phone calls weren’t being made, and new patient records were not being properly kept.

Janine came in and did just what Dr. Mack hoped she would: she promptly put all the pieces back together again. Everything was getting done, and everything was in its place. That’s all that matters, right?

Despite the upswing in organization, the practice began to suffer. (This is where we come in.) After getting the lay of the land, we realized that the new employee, Janine, was the major source of trouble. While Dr. Mack celebrated Janine’s achievement in making administration and billing move seamlessly, he missed the negative effects she had on the practice.

After spending so long without the job skills up front that he needed, Dr. Mack wanted his team to cross-train. With small teams like we have in dentistry, every team member is vital. It’s important to cross-train so when the inevitable loss happens, it isn’t devastating. Janine refused to let others learn how to perform her responsibilities. This eventually led to a work conflict that resulted in another team member leaving.

Warning Signs

What traits do we look for that might mean a “perfect” employee is really a ticking time bomb?

  • Won’t train others. Employees who don’t want to train others in their jobs usually do so for one of two reasons. First, perhaps they are just power hungry. A sensitive ego and fear of being replaced means they use their knowledge and access within your practice to hold you hostage. Second, they may have something they want to hide. It might be work done improperly, embezzlement, or even just a personal reason.
  • Won’t take time off. There is a reason the banking industry requires by law that employees take two consecutive weeks off every year. Do you think it’s just a solid work ethic that keeps someone from ever leaving their post for several years? Think again. Employees who are stealing money or personal information usually refuse to take extended time off because their crimes will be discovered by the cross-trained employee who covers for them.
  • They always have something negative to say. There are some employees who want to criticize others while playing up their own importance. They may not do this to everyone; Janine was quite polite to Dr. Mack, but could be cruel to the rest of the team. These types will cause decay in your team that must be treated as soon as it’s found.

Finding the Bad Apple

What do you do when you can’t determine the source of a conflict between employees? Janine and another team member disliked each other immensely, but Dr. Mack wasn’t sure which one was actually causing the problem. Rather than ignoring it and hoping it resolved itself, Dr. Mack interviewed every team member to get their side of the story.

When all fingers pointed to Janine (except for hers), it was clear what needed to be done. Beware the person who is always thumping their chest or telling you where to look.

Fortunately for Dr. Mack, with a little help his practice turned around. The solution was right under his nose all along. He had a great dental assistant who had been part of his clinical team for years. When he cross-trained her up front, she blossomed into an excellent office manager.


~Linda O’Grady

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This post was written by Linda

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