AADOM News |4 min read

When the “Systems” Come Crashing Down

Tracy Gryger with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

Over the 35 years of my dental career as an office manager, I have learned that having systems in place is a key to a well-run dental office.

What stayed consistent throughout the changes over the past several months was the systems we had in place for many years prior.

Every single member of our team was on board and followed the systems flawlessly. They were practiced daily and were what helped us thrive.

But then our lives changed.

We thought we were the “lucky” ones, being able to go straight back to working with a full team after a couple of months.

We were ecstatic. We put new protocols in place and were prepared to weather the “storm.”

What we didn’t anticipate was a crew not weathering it with us.

For a multitude of reasons, we started to experience turnover unlike never before.

It was a strange new world.

Employees that seemed content with our old world were suddenly looking for other new opportunities, personal leaves, etc.

Offices desperate to find help lured some of our staff away with a promise of a bright new future. New employees began struggling to fit in.

We now faced a new struggle.

Could our “systems” weather the storm too?

We hired new employees. Some stayed a week, others a month, and some were long-time employees of other dental offices who needed a change.

With this turnover came the urgency to train quickly.

We couldn’t re-install our old systems quickly enough before more change came.

How could we train systems when we were trying to teach teeth numbers and surfaces and deal with the surrounding crisis in the world around us?

In the process, our systems started to experience more cracks. With those fracture lines came frustration.

These cracks revealed themselves in many ways.

Tensions started to surface, and weekly meetings turned into what some perceived as personal attacks. Employees became uncomfortable holding each other accountable to the systems and concealed their frustrations leading to confrontations.

Despair was in the air!

One employee felt as if “we were broken.”

It was at that moment I realized we were not broken – our systems have not weathered the storm with the team.

A road to recovery

Recognizing the problem was the first step.

Reestablishing our systems was next, and implementing them again as a “new” team became our first priority.

My goal was to look at the bigger picture.

With so many changes, I was focused on small details. It was time to fly at 30,000 feet again, as we were trained to do.

While our reasons for working in a dental office may vary, the ultimate goal is to create a positive dental experience for our patients that includes friendship and respect for one another.

I often rely on what I learned through conflict resolution training.

It’s a rare occasion that your co-workers wake up with the intention of trying to ruin another’s day. After all, we spend a majority of our life with each other, and shouldn’t we be able to go home at the end of the day feeling as though we have done the best for one another, our patients, and the practice!

Sometimes change is necessary

The lesson I learned:

Embrace your systems and trust their importance. If a system is no longer effective, then make changes that everyone can agree upon.

Without systems in place, the team loses focus on the overall goal. You have staff going in different directions and putting unnecessary strains on the practice.

While I believe my loyalties have always been to the practice, its team, and its patients, I shifted my primary loyalty to our systems.

Our systems are what organize the practice, guide the team, and ensure that our patients get the best dental experience possible.

It’s gratifying to know that even through this difficult dental journey, our patients have continued to praise what we do.

We never completely lost sight of our systems; we simply had to recreate them in a new team in changed circumstances.

Our reviews are a testament to that.

Meet the Author

Tracy Gryger in maroon top and black sweaterTracy Gryger joined the dental industry ages ago – in 1986 to be exact – and is proud to have worked in the same practice for the past 35 years.

In her experience as a dental assistant and then office administrator, Tracy has seen numerous changes in the industry. Her career has seen her through the successful growth through industry transitions and mergers with other practices.

When she isn’t busy at work, she and her partner Tom enjoy spending time in their woodshop and, more recently, beekeeping. Tracy is the proud mother to her daughter, Emily, and enjoys spoiling her many “grandpets.”


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