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Despite a Gallup poll suggesting only 13% of us are engaged in our work environments, most of us will stay in the same boring position because we fear change, lack other opportunities, or simply lack initiative to hunt for the next dental home.

It’s ironic that we work to help others find a good dental home for their dental wellbeing, yet sometimes we are not certain of our own dental workplace. Sometimes our dental homes – i.e. our dental practices – are a bit chaotic, and we would personally like to run away from our homes.

We all want to feel good when we are in our dental work homes. When that feeling of wanting to run away strikes you, here are my tips for helping you to weigh out the pros and cons of leaving home.

You should consider leaving home if:

1. You cannot stand the living conditions. The space itself is uncomfortable. I once practiced in an office that offered no space to sit down regularly. I could sit in an operatory and type up notes, but only if someone else wasn’t using the computer in the operatory. I can’t say that this was the main reason I left that practice, but it was a contributing factor. The space should feel relatively good. There is a space for your personal items and a place to take a break when needed. It should be uncluttered and have a good flow of energy through the office. See Feng Shui for more ideas on energy flow.

2. You feel physically ill going to work each day. This should be a big red flag. This means there is definitely a problem. It might be complex, and the problem might have to do with how you handle your role in the office. But, whatever it is, resolution does not seem to be happening, and when physical illness enters the situation, it may be time to find a new home.

3. You arrive late to work day after day. This could mean you are not excited to go to work. You may have reached your goals in this office, and you may not feel challenged. If you have talked this over with your boss and there is no more room for growth or advancement, it may be time to leave home.

4. You have an unsupportive boss, leader, or manager. With today’s style of management changing, it’s hard to tolerate an underdeveloped leader. If there is little appreciation for your work, and you are receiving little or no feedback about your performance, then it may be time to consider other options. We all have goals. If you willingly share yours with your employer and there is no interest in listening to your goals, or helping you attain them, it might not be the right fit for what you need or want in a work environment.

5. The communication within the office is immature and hurtful. Life is too short for back-stabbing actions and hateful glares and glances. If you are in an environment that lacks mutual respect for one another, it is hard to enjoy the hours spent at work. You may not like everyone and want to hang out with him or her frequently, but you do have to respect one another. If this is impossible to do because of persistent behavioral problems with fellow employees, it may be time to look for another tribe. Be aware: all offices have some issues. The ones that deal with them have the most success.

6. You can make more money or have more flexibility at a different office. I recommend this option with delicately. More pay does not always equal more happiness. If all things seem relatively similar from one office to another, and someone is willing to pay you a significantly higher wage, it may be a good move. In contrast, you may actually be willing to take a small pay cut if you can have more flexibility in your work schedule. Many dental professionals are women, and an increased flexibility in scheduling, to accommodate family needs, can be very enticing. These lifestyle options of increased pay or increase time may make it worth leaving home. Definitely do your homework before making a switch. Make sure all things are equal, and you are getting what you think you are getting.

7. Patient care is suffering. If you are ethically challenged and cannot believe in the work that is being completed in your office, you may want to look around for other options. It’s too hard to compromise your ethical standards on a daily basis. This may ultimately bother your conscious and lead to poor health. Start looking for another home, and see what is available.

8. A co-worker is bullying you, and no one else cares. There should be no tolerance for workplace bullying. Each office should have training on bullying because of the broader definition and interpretation currently in place in our culture. Feeling unsafe physically or mentally is definitely a reason to leave a work environment. If members of the leadership team are doing the bullying or are not hearing the concerns regarding a bullying situation, the office members become voiceless. This is unproductive for the team members and for patient care.
9. You want to pursue other dreams. It’s okay to change your mind, or continue down a different pathway. Most employers will understand this as long as plenty of advance notice is given. If you change your mind each month and jump from job to job, most employers will not understand that.

10. You have consistent, unrelenting pain while performing your duties. Working through pain is not enjoyable. If you have chronic neck or back pain, dentistry is not fun. If you have tried all kinds of treatment to cure your physical pain, you may need to find other opportunities. You can always leave home, but stay in the same neighborhood. Other aspects of dentistry may be better for you than battling daily pain while trying to deliver optimal care to patients.

All of these suggestions are based on the assumption that we have already discussed our concerns and unhappiness with our immediate supervisor or boss. It would be a shame to go through a job change only to realize it was us who needed to communicate more effectively. Leaving, in my opinion, is a last resort that should only be considered when other options have been tried or addressed, and when the same issues continue to re-surface.

There are times in our lives when we must leave our homes because no other options are working. When I left practices, I always tried to make things work first. I discussed my concerns with my partners, bosses, or co-workers. If we could not come to a mutual understanding after several weeks and often months of trying to make things work for everyone, I gave ample notice of my intentions to leave the practice. I also tried to make my departure as painless as possible. If I needed to cover for someone before I left, I would do it. If I needed to work an extra day so that someone could get a vacation in before I left, I did it.

Leaving home does not have to be a nasty, door slamming in the face, experience. As a matter of fact, I think it’s always best to try and leave the door open a little bit so that we can come back in the future if desired – even if it’s just for a visit.

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