Overcoming Team Dysfunction

Patricia Calhoun, FAADOM, with Real-World Insights


Building a cohesive and efficient dental team is crucial for the success of any practice. However, achieving harmony among team members can be challenging, especially when faced with disparities in working hours and training levels.

In this article, I share my experience and advice on how to avoid dysfunction when hiring new team members.

How Team Dysfunction Can Begin

As office manager, I worked on assembling a dedicated team to provide exceptional care to our patients. However, the team’s growing sense of frustration was brought to my attention.

One team member, who had non-standard working hours, was not pulling her weight, sparking gossip and complaints about their perceived lack of commitment. This team member was hired part-time, and their schedule was tailored to accommodate the practice’s needs.

Due to their limited hours, they missed essential training sessions and needed to be made aware of the specific duties expected of them. Had I scheduled regular check-in meetings with the entire team to discuss any issues or concerns, we could have brainstormed solutions.

This situation highlights two key factors contributing to dysfunction within the dental team: non-standard working hours and inadequate training.

How to Create a Successful Work Environment

Let us discuss how to address these issues to foster a more harmonious work environment and ensure the success of your practice.

  1. Establish clear expectations regarding working hours during the hiring process. Ensure that all team members understand the importance of consistent attendance and communicate any flexibility in scheduling upfront. By aligning everyone’s schedules as closely as possible, you can minimize disruptions and promote teamwork.
  2. Invest in comprehensive training for all team members, regardless of their hours or roles within the practice. Provide thorough instruction on essential tasks and procedures and encourage ongoing education and skill development. Equipping every team member with the necessary knowledge and skills can prevent misunderstandings and promote accountability.

Had the part-time team member received proper training from the start, they would have been aware of their responsibilities and could have integrated more seamlessly into the team. Regular check-ins and performance evaluations help identify areas where additional training may be needed, allowing us to address issues proactively.

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Why Effective Communication is Necessary

Effective communication is also vital in mitigating dysfunction within the dental team.

Encourage open dialogue among team members, developing a culture of transparency and mutual respect. It’s also essential to promptly address any concerns or grievances and seek feedback from the entire team to identify areas for improvement.

The team’s culture is imperative, and it is vital to lead by example and cultivate a positive work environment where every team member feels valued and supported.

Showing Appreciation

Another way to build team morale is to recognize and celebrate individual contributions and develop a sense of camaraderie among team members. By nurturing a strong team dynamic, you can overcome challenges together and achieve greater success as a practice.

Dysfunction within the dental team can arise from non-standard working hours and inadequate training. By addressing these issues through clear expectations, comprehensive training, effective communication, and a positive work environment, you can develop a cohesive and high-performing team.

Together, you can provide exceptional care to your patients and ensure the success of your practice for years to come.


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About the Author


Profile of Patricia Calhoun, FAADOMPatricia Calhoun, FAADOM

Patricia (Trish) has over 20 years of dental experience as a dental assistant, RDH, and Practice Administrator.

She is a lifetime member of AADOM, was inducted as a Fellow in 2023, and is enrolled to receive her AADOM Mastership in 2024.

She is the president of the NW Florida Dental Connection.


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