I love my team. It’s been about three and a half years since my business partner and I opened our office and we have a great group of people working with us. Notice that I call them my “team” and that they work “with us” and not “for us.”
Being a boss is tough. Over the year’s I’ve seen some great dentist-owners and some not so great ones. I’ve listened to their advice on running a staff and have occasionally been shocked by what I’ve heard. Here are three pieces of advice that I immediately threw in the garbage:
(1) “Show your employees who’s boss.”
I’ve seen some dentists lose their cool with their team members. Yelling, harsh words, and even an instrument thrown across the room. That’s all silly temper tantrum stuff that will undermine the spirit of the office and make for an unpleasant working environment. Most of the time this immature behavior is an accident; the dentist momentarily gets stressed out and takes it out on some poor unsuspecting employee. But I have actually had a dentist tell me that his policy is to yell at staff every now and then to “keep them in line.”
It’s important to maintain a level of respect and control in your office, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it. Respect and control should come from compassion, not fear.
(2) “We don’t give raises in our office.”
I worked in an office that never gave raises. It shouldn’t be a surprise that there was a predictable amount of staff turnover. It can be difficult to find a person that is the right fit for your office and then train them to work efficiently with you and the rest of the team. So it always surprises me when an employer will allow a great team member to walk away after a few years because they refused to offer even a modest raise.
Employee salaries are typically the largest part of the office overhead. Owners need to make sure that it doesn’t get out of control. But losing great people is an even greater cost to an office.
(3) “We don’t pay overtime.”
This little pearl of wisdom can actually be illegal depending on your State’s labor laws. In New York, every hour worked over 40 hours per week is paid at time and a half. So if an team member makes $10 an hour, they will make $15 each hour over 40 per week ($10 is a low wage but it makes for easy math in the example). I worked for a guy who had a “balancing system” for his staff’s hours. He would move around the hours they worked from week to week to even out their pay between busy and not-so-busy periods. But this kind of fuzzy math can get you into a lot of trouble. If your calculations are done in a way that an employee can’t get overtime pay, you’re flirting with fines, penalties, and even prison. Aside from that, your team will think you’re a jerk.