Like the best-oiled machinery, a spanner in the works at any dental practice can cause untold damage.

Workplace culture is very much a hot topic – and your wellbeing and happiness is intrinsically linked to the professional environment in which you find yourself. In essence, a healthy workplace culture should be diverse, inclusive and respectful, with everyone accountable for their behaviour towards patients – and each other.

In a healthcare setting, experts suggest this open and supportive culture encourages positive outcomes – both clinically and in terms of patient and team satisfaction.

A team approach to dentistry is the ultimate in excellent delivery and, in an ideal world, all dental teams will foster collaboration and good communication, share clear and shared goals, and enjoy strong leadership and fair management. Communication channels should work seamlessly to support this team spirit, encouraging empowerment and fostering positive feelings about your role, your colleagues and the workplace as a whole.

Break down

But how do we know our colleagues have got our back? And what can we do should we feel upset, taken advantage of or ignored, or if a professional relationship breaks down? Despite our best efforts to work together for the greater good, marginalisation, fierce competition, petty jealousies and misunderstandings can impact on the rest of the team and upset the equilibrium. Like the best-oiled machinery, a spanner in the works at your practice can cause untold damage – with the fall-out sometimes permanent.

Trust takes time to build but is so easily destroyed – not just with patients, but with our colleagues, peers, managers and those we manage, too. Sometimes our perception of acceptable behaviour is not the same as others, and there are countless stories on closed Facebook groups written by the troubled and the concerned about workplace bullying, broken codes of conduct, and numerous other perceived workplace injustices.

Very often, the problem can be caused by a lack of written policy, clear guidelines or practice protocols.

In this issue, we consider the essentials when it comes to securing patient trust. Dentist Ben Atkins, president of the Oral Health Foundation, talks us through his own template for patient examinations so that everyone knows what to do and every patients learns to understand what to expect. Take a read. Is this the type of care model your team follows? Do you have a written policy for the patient pathway – from welcoming them at the door to follow up appointments? Ben’s article is insightful and impressive, focusing on the lengths some teams will go to ensure everyone is working together in a positive, collaborative and productive way.

Now if only there was a step-by-step guide to getting along with our colleagues… Here are a few pointers:

ν Take an interest in colleagues as well as patients

ν Build on these relationships

ν Be honest and open

ν Celebrate success but don’t trample on others to get ahead

ν Never forget your roots (thank you Fiona Ellwood for this one!)

ν Always remember the vision of the practice, wherever you’re personally heading

ν Communicate with clarity

ν Work with your colleagues to deliver dentistry safely and effectively

ν Have some humility – especially in your social media posts!

ν Be a positive light not a battery zapper

ν Don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – and do acknowledge those who helped get you where you are today.