Don’t Burn Bridges
Check Your Contract
Craft Your Message
It Pays to be Professional
Change is Good
Michelle Strange: A Tale of Two Hygienists presents this week’s TIPisode: Quick and easy tips to keep you up to date and presented by the experts in the profession. Now, get ready for your unofficial TIPisode.
Teresa Duncan: Hi. This is Teresa Duncan with the Nobody Told Me That! podcast and also the new Chew on This podcast, which you can find on the Dental Podcast Network.
I’m here today to talk to you about grace, and specifically how to leave your job with grace. Now, I’m not advocating that you run out and leave your job if everything is just fine, of course. But sometimes we have reasons that necessitate us leaving a good job, and perhaps we need to be able to leave it on good terms. And I think if you have a really good relationship with your existing office, you’re going to want to also leave on good terms.
You know, sometimes we have to leave for reasons that have nothing to do with the current office. Life changes. And, with COVID having hit us, we’ve learned it’s going to be unpredictable. And this office that you were just fine at, you know, suddenly is not meeting your needs, whether if it’s for a much-needed change in income, maybe things have changed in your household, and you are now the sole earner, and you need to bump that up a little bit perhaps.
I know in my situation I’ve needed more flexibility to care for not children — although children are definitely something to consider — but my older parents. And so, if you have young children at home, you no doubt have been feeling the pressure of homeschooling if you’ve had to do that. And, sometimes for lots of reasons including those, a change is needed.
Now, you may need to take another job for higher pay, and that’s okay. I know it’s easy to feel guilty about that. I’ve been in that situation. But, in the end, I had to do what was right for my family and also for me mentally. And the stress of, you know, trying to make ends meet or just trying to figure things out sometimes can be a little bit much. And so, for mental health, I think you really need to go with the place that makes you happy.
So what’s the point of talking about all of this? Well, I’d like you to avoid burning bridges when you leave, and I thought we could talk that through from a managerial standpoint. If you were to come to me and tell me, you know, that you had to leave and it was because of extra income that you were going to get from another office — perhaps you’re getting a signing bonus — and I — you know, mentally, I’m crunching the numbers. I don’t want to lose you. However, I know that there’s a cap on what I can spend as far as salary as a percentage of my overhead. And, if it just doesn’t work out, unfortunately I’ll have to just, you know, wish you well. But I want to wish you well on good terms, and I want you to feel the same way.
So here’s the thing. It’s a very, very small industry. And any kind of weird drama can always come back up to bite you in the butt down the road in another office. I’ll give you an example: When I was consulting full time, there was an office where I went in, and the lady who was there — she wasn’t a hygienist, but she was an assistant — and she was a troublemaker, and she was hard to work with. Well, in my consulting career, I’ve seen her in at least three different offices, and I am trying really hard not to tell the doctors about the history because I’m not going to be that person. However, I am going to bring up the fact that I have reservations about her performance. That’s what I have to do as a consultant.
Long-winded point of all of that is I saw her because she hopped around, and the industry is small. And I’m coming from a different geographic location even, so it was a — it’s a very small industry. And I need you to make peace with the fact that whomever you are working with today, you might be working with in a totally different office down the road.
Okay, so. First, I want you to check your employment contract and make sure that you know when you’re supposed to be paid out for your time. Every state is different. You’re supposed to — there are rules around when you’re supposed to get your last paycheck. And check the employee manual because if you’ve accrued vacation days, you should — you are entitled to those as well. So, if it’s — only if it’s accrued thought. And, if it’s in the handbook and you’ve agreed to that, then they need to be able to compensate you for those times.
Now, you may even have — if you’ve been in a place for so long, you may even have a 401K or profit-sharing plan, and you’re going to need to take care of that before you leave. You know, make sure you get all of the paperwork before you leave.
There’s also going to be wording regarding whether or not you can contact your patients or take patient information with you. I’ve learned from several compliance speakers that taking patient information with you is actually a violation of HIPPA — that’s the privacy law — and, at the end of the day, the patient data never really belonged to you. And the good thing about being in a small town is you’re going to run into these people again. And, if that happens, it happens. But that is one of the downsides of leaving an office that has really good patients is that you’re also leaving the patients, not just the office.
Okay. You also are going to want to decide with the manager and the dentist how questions around your departure should be addressed, meaning what’s going to happen when somebody comes in and says, “Hey, where’d Jean go? I thought she — she’s been here forever. She’s always been cleaning my teeth.” Well, I recommend something vague but also something that’s not a lie because we want to make sure that it comes out correctly. We don’t want to lie about it. And, if you are on good terms with the office, then this is easy to say.
I would recommend saying, “You know, she left on good terms, and we’re definitely going to keep in touch. I can let her know you said hi if you like.” If you are close to that patient, that patient is going to be just fine. And almost — most of the patients can read between the lines and realize, you know, that people move on.
So I understand that on the part of the doctors a lot of times they don’t want to lose staff because they think it reflects badly on the patients — or I’m sorry, badly of the office. But I think those days are gone. I think that’s really the old school when I started about 20, 30 years ago. Now, I think society understands that office has — the offices have team members, and you’re not always going to have the same group all of the time. It’s not very common to have one core group that stays through the whole of the patient’s lifetime in that office.
Change is not as noticeable by the patients as you think it is, so don’t worry about that. And your manager’s going to have to keep — your manager’s going to have to come to terms with that as well.
So the reason I’d like this process to be graceful is that the industry is really small. The doctors and the managers talk. If you’re professional and reasonable, then you should really have no problem getting references to build your reputation. Also, we talked about it earlier: Team members switch jobs.
Maybe you walk into your dream job. It’s right around the corner, perfect hours, great pay, you want to nail this interview. Well, look. Anna from the old office is now working there. Hopefully, she’ll remember the circumstances from the last office and how professional you were. A reference from a current employee is fantastic and pretty much will seal a deal. From a manager point of view, if I already have somebody on my staff that has experience working with you and you weren’t a nightmare, I’m very happy to hear that information.
So I outlined these — this whole scenario if you are leaving on good terms. What happens if your feelings aren’t so warm and fuzzy? Maybe you’re glad to be leaving. You can’t wait to get out of this office. I still want you to take the high road. Remember, the industry is small. References are always nice to have, and being able to look back and keep in touch with some of your doctors or some of your employees that were there, it’s a really good network for if you ever need to get out there and find another position in another office.
The good news about leaving no matter what is that you’re on your way out. Grin and bear it, and get to the other side. You know, if a change is on the horizon, that’s exciting in very many ways. It’s also very nervous — you know, makes me nervous whenever I have to go through a big change. But change is good. Change is difficult, but change is ultimately good.
So, if a change is on your horizon, I wish you lots of strength and lots of grace.
My name is Teresa Duncan, and again, I am the host of the Nobody Told Me That! podcast and the co-host of the Chew on This podcast, both podcasts on the Dental Podcast Network. And my company is Odyssey Management, odysseymgmt.com. Shoot me an email or sign up for my newsletter, and I will be back with another TIPisode soon.
Michelle Strange: We hope you enjoyed this week’s TIPisode. Be sure to reach out to our guest experts and let them know how helpful their tips were. Follow A Tale of Two Hygienists on Facebook, Instagram, and head over to ataleoftwohygienists.com and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep listening for more awesome content from your unofficial dental hygiene podcast.