Dental Workplace Stress: How to Support Each Other During Tough Times

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Stress brings out the best and worst in people, and it needs to be addressed in a careful but meaningful way. We need to be there for one another and come together like we never have.

Times are definitely tough, and everyone seems to be handling it at their own pace and in their own way. Let’s discuss the nuances of how to be supportive of one another during these times.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman, who wrote the famous relationship book called The 5 Love Languages, we all show and receive love in different ways. Why not support each other in various ways, striving to speak each other’s language the best we are capable of? The end result will be a much more positive exchange where we learn to lean on, respect each other, and grow together as a whole?

There are so many ways to accomplish this. The everyday examples below are how we can achieve this in our workplace or even in the online world with our dental peers.

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

Do: Show understanding.

Do not: Elevate your self-worth over another.

Why: No one likes a negative person who sees others’ flaws as a means to raise themselves up. This is a form of bullying, and that has proven time and time again to get us nowhere.

Result: Sometimes, all a person needs is an understanding, compassionate ear or a genuine smile (or funny GIF if it’s online!) to feel better. Give it a try. Besides, giving of yourself always comes back to you twofold.

Do: Give constructive answers.

Do not: Pick apart grammar.

Why: If one of our peers is reaching out for help, professional advice, or simply needing a nonfamily member who might understand and give a listening ear, wouldn’t it be nice to know they feel they are in a safe place rather than one of criticism?

Result: A positive, collective community where all members feel they belong and can rest assured their best interests are first and foremost.

Do: Learn from one another.

Do not: Think you are the guru to teach everyone a better way.

Why: You never know who is reading or following you, so write with caution and read with openness.

Result: We should be open to learning from one another for the better good of everyone, so we, in turn, can teach others.

Do:  Help others with reliable information, giving links or references wherever possible.

Do not: Try to discredit others’ answers in a derogatory way.

Why: Some people learn best from examples and hate doing research, while others thoroughly enjoy digging up evidence-based examples or alternative approaches. Being open-minded and thankful for how you can contribute positively will always be the best approach.

Result: The more examples and links to scientific evidence we can provide each other with, the more we all learn. Being open to alternative answers will also make us better practitioners.

Office Situations

Do: Help each other out.

Do not: Turn your back, claiming something isn’t your “job.”

Why: Giving of yourself shapes you into being a generous and grateful person.

Result: Synergy in the workplace and a caring vibe where everyone feels like an equal.

Do: Be creative with new ways to perform tasks.

Do not: Whine about how you have it harder than everyone else.

Why: Showing initiative instead of a resentful attitude is much more joyful to be around.

Result: New ways and efficiencies are learned and shared by all, and the office runs smoother.

Do: Be open, honest, and realize we are all human, and in this together.

Do not: Feel like you are all alone or make anyone else feel like an outcast.

Why: We are here to learn from each other and grow together, not knock each other down.

Result: Psychologist Abraham Maslow had it right when he said a sense of belonging is needed before we can reach the next level of self-esteem and eventually self-actualization. Why not help each other reach the top? The view is best when it’s shared.

Do: Be respectful of others’ beliefs and cultures.

Do not: Gossip, point fingers, judge.

Why: We all have our own backgrounds, beliefs, practices, etc., and don’t need the criticism of our own peers bringing us down.

Result: A sense of community where diversity is welcomed, not constantly challenged.

Zoom Team Meeting

(Zoom meetings are mentioned just in case there’s another shutdown.)

Do: Be on time or early.

Do not: Wait until the last minute to sign on or download the Zoom app, making others wait.

Why: Most members will be already waiting with their coffee (or other beverage), so showing this kind of respect will give your team the sense that you care enough to put them first.

Result: Your team will appreciate you and feel respected.

Do: Choose a quiet space without distractions if at all possible.

Do not: Have kids screaming in the background, the dog barking for her breakfast, or your significant other desperately searching for his or her keys in front of the camera.

Why: Some things cannot be helped but choosing to be distracting without even trying to cut the background noise is disrespectful.

Result: A happier, quicker meeting where everyone has heard the expectations and feels prepared.

Do: Smile and be presentable.

Do not: Show up with bed head, complain about your hangover, or dress inappropriately if a camera angle will expose a bit too much.

Why: There’s always at least one funny kidder in the crowd who’s not taking things seriously, and, hey, I’m often one of them! Try to be somewhat professional during the actual work meetings, though, whenever you can.

Result: Positive energy will be most appreciated, not a complaining attitude or no attempt to even try.

Do: Offer solutions.

Do not: Being part of the problem by complaining about everything under the sun.

Why: Positive people initiate more productivity, and we all could use more of that, especially these days.

Result: A team that meshes well together and knows how to get things done.

We need to endorse each other, pick each other up, realize we are not competing against each other. As professionals in the same field with the same fears, questions, and words of wisdom, hygienists need to act like the community that we are. While it is true that the more “seasoned” hygienists may have a ton of tricks to share − lessons learned and an encyclopedia of knowledge to bestow upon our fellow practitioners − we should also respect our newer grads who often have the newest and greatest information on hand that we could really use.

I won’t be all cliche and stand at the podium with the mic in my hand and ask for world peace or anything. But come on, let’s all at least be nice to one another. Like Dr. Claire Browne from “The Good Doctor” says to Shaun, “Opposing points of view are healthy as long as you listen to each other’s point of view.” Well, now, doesn’t this just open up a whole new world of listening?

Hugs to all of you, my peers, my friends.

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:

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Corina Hartley, RDH
Corina Hartley, RDH, is a Canadian Durham College graduate from the province of Ontario. Practicing dental hygiene since 2006, she has experienced the challenges of commuting to big cities, working in remote areas, and temping at various offices with differing ethnic backgrounds. While her family will always be her first love, the dental world is certainly the field she is passionate about, and writing about it brings her immense joy. Corina has a unique ability to relax the most phobic patient and calm an irate one with a smile, an understanding attitude, and a special sense of humor. She enjoys really getting to the heart of the matter with everything she does in life, and this is demonstrated by her witty writing abilities. Corina’s biggest desire is to share life with as many people as possible through close-up experiences, storytelling, and simply just being present.