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Whatcha Gonna Do About It?

Posted Mar 30 2013 8:05am

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” 
~Albert Einstein~

Ok, so I got your attention, but how many of you shook your head in agreement regarding human stupidity.  Let's face it, we're all a little stupid now and then; some more often than others and a few on a daily basis.  Whatcha gonna do about it?

As for life in general, we can just expect it.  You're going to meet someone who behaves stupidly every day, and you may just meet yourself along the way.  Sometimes I do things that appall me. (example: I just had to look up the spelling of appall because it looked weird when I typed it, but I was right! WooHoo)  Actually the stupidist thing I did lately was jump into an elevator to try to press the "door open" button for a lady with a stroller and ended up pushing the "door close" button and then throwing myself between the doors to stop them rather than pushing the right button.  You should have seen her expression.  It basically said, "This woman is a lunatic."  (I've seen that expression on people's faces more times than I care to admit) My point is, stupid happens in the world and you just have to deal with it as best you can.

The dental office is different when it comes to stupid.  Stupid can hurt people, cost the practice money, and add a lot of frustration to a workplace that carries it's own share of inherent stress.  The problem is, a lot of times people who behave, or think in ways that we perceive as stupid are also kind-hearted, trust-worthy, gentle and hard-working.  Then, there are the others who are lazy, selfish, dull, or just don't care.  Sorting the wheat from the chaff is your job as a manager.  Once you've decided that an employee is a wonderful person, but just lacks certain decision-making skills, you can try to help them find a way to work around their deficiencies.  It starts with sitting down and being gently, but firmly honest about their strengths and weaknesses; in other words, the dreaded performance review.

Set your review up so that you can really highlight their strengths first, but can also work those strengths into solutions, or tools to build up their weaknesses.  If possible, try to assign them duties that will put their strengths to use more frequently and take them away from areas in which their weaknesses cause problems.  

Accept the fact that most people, including yourself, are not good at everything.  If you have an employee that is not comfortable making decisions, you may be able to give her information that gives her steps to take in making a decision, but if fear of failure or reproach are her underlying issues, your brilliant decison- making steps sheet is not going to help.  Instead, address the underlying issues.  Role-play at staff meetings and let her see that if she makes a poor decision you will not scream at her, embarrass her or ridicule her.  If all else fails, maybe you can console yourself with the fact that you won't have to worry about her making her own rules, or doing things that constantly have to be undone. Identify the underlying issues that cause an otherwise wonderful person to perform poorly and you may have a diamond under all that dust.  Their heart makes them brilliant.  You just have to place them in a light that makes them shine.

Now, if you have someone who is lazy, selfish, dull and uncaring, ask yourself this: "Why do I keep someone on staff who is lazy, selfish, dull and uncaring?"  "Does that make me kind of stupid?"  The answer: "On some level, Yes."  You may take offense and think, "I'm not stupid, I'm just a nice person.  I see the best in everyone.  I think everyone has potential."  If it feels better, than go ahead and keep telling yourself that, but it will be at the risk of watching the good, kind-hearted, caring employees walk out the door.  Nothing clears a practice of good employees faster than the tolerance of poor employees.  A friend once told me, "People will sink to the level of the lowest common denominator to keep the peace."  I would add, "Or they'll leave."   With this type of employee, their attitude makes them stupid.  They may be pretty smart on paper, but what's in their heart makes them stupid.

It's not hard to tell the difference between the employee who has some weaknesses that cause her to perform in ways that could be construed as stupid and one whose cruddy attitude makes them stupid.  If you can't figure it out, maybe you're the one we should be worried about. Sooner or later, ignoring either type of employee just to avoid the discomfort that will accompany dealing with it will come home to bite you.  So, whatcha gonna do about it?


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