Recently, I was invited to be a part of a very nice function here in PennWell's hometown of Tulsa, Okla. It was one of those events where dentists, team members, sales representatives, and invited guests milled together and exchanged pleasantries while tasting food and sipping beverages. Yes, it was your typical cocktail party scene.
Since I'm from Tulsa (and I've lived here my entire life), I knew several of the long-time Tulsa dentists who were in attendance at the function. They are some of the big names in the local dental world, and most had stopped by to wish the host well in his new venture. I chit-chatted with several of them and was honored to meet their team members who had joined them at the gathering.
While I was talking to one of the dentists and his team members, a sales representative entered our conversation and quickly introduced himself to the dentist. The dentist and sales rep shook hands and then the dentist proceeded to introduce his lead dental assistant who was standing next to him. The sales rep shook her hand and said, "Oh I knew you must be someone important since you were standing next to Dr. X."
Excuse me? What did he just say? I have to admit his comment floored me a bit ... and appeared to make the dental assistant a bit uncomfortable as well. I wanted to ask him, "So ... she wasn't really important unless she was standing next to the doctor?" In my opinion, it was a very backhanded compliment to a lady who is a huge part of a huge Tulsa practice.
As the editor of Proofs magazine, a publication which reaches dental sales reps across the country, it immediately made me think of starting an article on "the top 10 things you should never say to a team member." As the editor of Dental Assisting Digest, which goes out to 26,000 dental assistants each month, it made me think to remind dental assistants how valuable they are to the success of the practice. They are never "just a dental assistant" and they are definitely important enough to be acknowledged for who and what they are, no matter who they are next to at a social gathering.
I don't know if the sales rep truly grasped that he had offended people, but he met the dentist, said he'd like to talk to him about a product, and shook his hand as he left. Personally, I hope when he calls to make the appointment, it's the same dental assistant who gets to answer the phone. As he tries to set up a time to visit, maybe she'll subtly remind him just how important she is ... both to the practice and to that sales rep's ability to sell his product.
"Be careful of your thoughts. They may become words at any moment." -- Ira Gassen
"Keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you may have to eat them." -- Unknown