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Aug 6

Rising to the level of ….WHAT???

When it comes to replacing an open position in our office, the last thing many of us want to consider is adding a new person…and as such, a new dynamic to the office. We’re even more reluctant to add a new dynamic in a key role such as office manager or treatment coordinator. Because of that reluctance, we make what seems to be the most reasonable choice………we promote from within. And when we do this, we frequently run right smack into The Peter Principle. The Peter Principle (from a book first published in 1969 by Lawrence J Peter) discusses, with some humor, how employees can “rise to the level of their own incompetence.” Unfortunately, there is very little to laugh about when this phenomenon happens in an office.

Let’s take a look and see how this can easily happen in our dental office. We have a really excellent treatment coordinator, who closes cases at a very high percentage and is loved by patients and staff alike. She has wonderful qualities…..loves everyone and is a real people pleaser. This lady will do whatever is needed to make patients and staff members happy, and loves spending all day chatting with patients. Because she’s so great, we promote her to the open position of office manager. This job requires a great deal of time in her office with paperwork, and also requires her to make tough decisions that will inevitably make some staff members unhappy. We’ve now officially brought her up to the level of her own incompetence. She was a highly successful, happy treatment coordinator and is now an awful, unhappy office manager. And we didn’t just stop there! We also took a great clinical assistant and promoted her to be our treatment coordinator…..what could possibly go wrong there? Our assistant loved her job and the order and routine of the clinic. We’ve now turned her into a full time sales person….and she hates it. Once again, the Peter Principle has hit our office at full speed. We now have two bad employees and no clue where to go from here.

In order to head off this sort of issue, we need to be sure who, and what, we want when we need to hire a new staff member. We want to look at the qualities that made her predecessor good (or bad) at her job, then make a complete list of what qualities an employee needs to function well in this position. Once we have that list, we need to take a clear, objective look at whether or not the person we’re considering for the position has these qualities. We need to be very honest with ourselves, and with the person we’re considering. Because a jump to office manager would include a pay and a prestige increase, we can’t really rely on staff members to tell us if they want the job…..we have to decide if they’re right for the job. Sometimes this self-assessment leads us to realize we need to hire outside of the office for a key position. While initial assimilation of a new person in a key position will be difficult, it’s much easier than dealing with the Peter Principle in action. We need every employee at their highest level of competence to have a properly functioning, happy office where everyone is doing the right job for their temperament and skill set. An office that lets the Peter Principle run employment is a dysfunctional, unhappy place where none of us want to work.




As dental practice management consultants, Mosaic Management Professionals, Inc. teachs you what the numbers mean for your success; shows you the opportunities that exist in your practice and helps you become someone who can attain the dream of personal and professional satisfaction. Let us help you handle the day to day and month to month details of your practice while we provide the training and support that will put all the pieces together into a beautifully aligned “Mosaic” that depicts your practice. Our initial consultation is always complementary and we maintain flexible hours to suit the needs of our clients.

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