How to Deal With a Prima Donna Hygienist

by Jill Leviticus

A prima donna hygienist can disrupt your usually harmonious dental practice. Other employees tend to resent the prima donna’s behavior, which can eventually affect productivity in the entire office. It’s important to stop the behavior as soon as you spot it if you want to keep the peace in your office.

Address the Behavior

Schedule a meeting with the prima donna to discuss her behavior. Your hygienist might not view her behavior as a problem, so be prepared with concrete examples, including dates, times and descriptions of the behavior. Let her know that her behavior affects the entire office and provide details. Perhaps dental assistants and the receptionist don’t want to work with her or patients have commented about her attitude. Encourage her to raise any concerns she has, but let her know that the behavior will not be tolerated.

Make Expectations Clear

It’s not enough to tell your hygienist that the prima donna behavior must stop; you must clearly explain what behavior you find objectionable and what changes you expect to see. For example, if your hygienist thinks that only dental assistants should restock supplies in exam rooms, let her know that you expect her to restock her own supplies. If your hygienist is supposed to make telephone calls to patients who are overdue for hygiene visits, but believes that such work is beneath her, remind her that a personal call from a hygienist might increase patient compliance. Tell her that she is responsible for completing calls and providing you with a monthly report of hygiene recall calls and results.

One Happy Family

Your hygienist might be more likely to help her co-workers if you encourage the staff to work as a team. Provide free lunches throughout the month or treat employees to a meal at a restaurant to encourage bonding. If your budget allows, send your hygienist and assistants to dental conferences. Once they’re out of the office in an unfamiliar setting, the usual barriers might disappear and the group might realize that they have shared interests. The Dentistry IQ Network suggests reinforcing teamwork by sharing stories about the ways your employees’ efforts supported the efforts of team.

Take Action

It might be time to take disciplinary action if your efforts don’t work. Give your hygienist a plan for improvement and tell her you will review her performance at the end of every week to determine if she is meeting goals. If her behavior does not improve, tell her what steps you will take, such as warnings, write-ups or suspensions. Document every instance of poor behavior or attitude for the hygienist’s personnel file. Should her behavior remain the same, termination might be the only solution.

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