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    How to clear the negativity out of your dental practice

    Have you ever met someone who sucks the air right out of the room? You know who I am talking about … that negative co-worker who complains about E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Look, in this day and age, I am just so grateful to be getting a paycheck, let alone having a place to go to everyday to keep me out of the mall. But, it just isn’t fun when there is so much negative energy running around the office. Unfortunately, we are with our work family more waking hours than we are with our own families (you know … the people with whom we “hypothetically” want to spend our time).

    So what do you do? GET A LIFE!!! It sounds a little harsh, but think about it. How much time and energy is wasted everyday dealing with someone so negative? I shudder to think about how much money is spent on staff kvetching and not working. Walk away from it. You are so much better than that. Besides, it isn’t professional. And please, make sure your patients don’t hear it. One sure way to shoot yourself in the foot is to share gossip with a patient or repeat it so he or she can hear it. Patients may seem engaged and loving every juicy morsel, but face it, they are your clients, not your friends.

    Change the topic. I don’t know about you, but it is pretty hard for me to walk, talk, and chew gum at the same time. It is the same concept with this negativity. When you change the topic, you alter the direction of the conversation. For example, we had a receptionist totally “lose it” at a staff meeting last week. She gave a copy of a letter to each of us to read about some incident that happened at work. She had us all read it before she started her keynote speech. It made all of us really uncomfortable. This was not handled in the right manner. The receptionist started venting and got so worked up that I thought she was either going to cry or have a heart attack. Finally, the office manager addressed the concerns and said she was concluding the meeting so those who were not involved could get back to work. She wanted only those involved in the incident to stay and work this out then and there. That was a smart move! I wanted to get out of there so fast. Who needs this kind of drama?

    Look at what you are doing. It is so easy to not look in the mirror. I tend to blame things on others. It isn’t that I think I am perfect or something. I just don’t see this flaw. Maybe I need to look a little closer. Do you have that problem? You don’t see how YOU are the problem not the solution? Sometimes it feels like I am getting slapped in the face when someone has the guts to really get honest with me about my behavior. Yes, I gossip. No, I am not proud of it. And yes, I tell others not to do it. So, I am a hypocritical gossiper … and that’s the worst kind. Beware. Habits are hard to break, but first you have to be aware of them.

    Talk to the person. I am all about appropriate communication. Talk to the person who is so negative. Find out what is really going on. My guess is that it isn’t what it seems. Sometimes, we lash out at others when things are rough at home, or you are bored, or you get treated poorly. OK, I am talking about myself here. Whether it is depression, anger, loneliness, etc., sometimes it paints my whole world grey. I don’t see the blessings in it. Sometimes reaching out to someone and showing interest in his or her life makes all the difference in the world. I have a co-worker with whom I am not friends. We are pleasant to each other, but she was so annoying that my tendency was to run the other direction when she came my way (not an easy thing to do in a very small dental practice.) Fed up, I decided to do something different. I asked her to lunch. She looked at me suspiciously, but said “yes.” We left the office and actually got to know each other while eating a great meal. She was so much friendlier that afternoon. I invited her to join me and a friend the next day. Would you believe that she is slowly changing and not such a negative whirlwind? My point is to try something different. Show interest in someone. You can make a difference.

    This wraps up this month’s life-changing thoughts. Thinking has always been a dangerous thing for me to do, but so be it. I need to stop and think about things in order to make goals to change them. Remember, you can only change yourself. It would be nice to fix others or change them, but all you can do is be a friend. I’ll talk to you next month. If you want to shoot me an e-mail and share how you are overcoming the demons of negativity at your office, go to [email protected].

    Lisa Newburger, LISW-S
    Lisa Newburger, a master's level social worker supervisor, helps audiences find humor in talking about tough topics. Her "in-your-face" ...