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When Do I Tell My Staff?

By Greg Auerbach, MBA

A common concern in nearly every discussion about the transition process is about how to bring up the impending change to the staff and how they are going to deal with the news. The reality is that as you are thinking retirement, as discrete as you think you may be, you have trained your staff well so to read your mood, anticipate your needs and support your direction. As you near the point in your career when you decide to fully, or partially, put down the handpiece, you should realize that your staff is sensing a change in your day to day behavior.

So, when is the right time to sit down with the team, and how much information should be shared? Unfortunately, the answer is not universal and takes some care, consideration and diligence. Why is this the case? Well, as you may know, no two offices are the same – each has its own individual personality. Staff motivators or directives that work for your colleagues may or may not work for you and the things you may do best, may or may not work for your friends.

In considering the personality of your office, do you feel that you feel that yours is more like a family? Maybe your staff has been together for years such that everybody knows each other’s personal families, individual likes, dislikes and habits are well known and, really, anything can be discussed. In this case, ongoing conversations are the norm and the transition can be as transparent as you would like it to be. On the other end of the spectrum, your staff may not be very integrated on a personal level, necessitating a process whereby it is best to not discuss anything until contracts are signed, money is in escrow and the closing is all but finalized. In between the two extremes are situations including one where certain staff members are like family and can be brought in early, with others unaware or one which requires extensive re-assurance that things will be ok with a new dentist, that nothing major will be changing in the short term and that everybody’s job is safe.

Regardless of the type of office personality you may have in your practice, when you do have the discussion, it is extremely important to communicate that your team is very important in sustaining the continuity of the practice. While a reasonable concern, initially, some team members will inevitably feel they will lose their job when the new dentist takes over. In almost every case though, this is farthest from the truth. In reality, the staff is relied upon to introduce patients, educate about systems and protocols and strengthen patient trust in the new dentist. In fact, having the staff be active participants and facilitators to transition the new doctor into the office makes the purchaser more comfortable as they step into their new role. Most purchasers have never owned an office before, so having the staff help show them the ropes of your successful practice becomes invaluable.

So, when and how should you tell your staff about your upcoming transition – it depends. What is important is that they are informed in such a way and at such a time that that suits their collective personality, which is different for each and every transition and situation.

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