How Close is Too Close?

When it comes to staff….how close is too close?  Because I’m a dental spouse, you probably think that I’m referring to the slippery slope some male dentists find themselves in with their employees.  Of course that is a legitimate concern, but I’m talking about another issue.  My issue is this….I work in my husband’s practice and I am very close to all the members of our team.  Probably closer than I should be.  My husband sometimes feels that it clouds my judgement about certain issues.  I will admit that I have a very maternal instinct when it comes to most of them, even though I’m not that much older (just kidding).  I think it comes from the fact that I have been in their shoes.  I share the same background of working in a dental office, of being a single mother, of moving to a new area and having no family nearby for support and of working with my husband in all its glory and despair!  My problem is how to separate personal feelings from the needs of the practice.

The first place I started was to be honest with myself.  I had to realize that my close relationship with our team could have a significant impact on our practice.  I could not let my personal feelings determine how I handled staff issues.  I also couldn’t let any member of our team take advantage, either deliberately or by accident, of my deep regard for them.

The second thing I had to do was to be honest with my husband.  Because he knows me so well, he knows that my maternal instincts are very strong.  He also knows that I will go three blocks out of my way just to avoid confrontation.  He will also be quick to say that this instinct applies to everyone but him!  Knowing all this made the decision of who to be in charge of staff issues very easy.  He will, of course, ask my opinion about different issues but ultimately he will make the decisions when it comes to staff.  This arrangement works very well for us, especially because the staff is aware that he is in charge.  This reduces the possibility that a staff member could take advantage of our relationship.  It also allows the team to accept me as one of their own.  Having a personal relationship with each other makes our team bond so much stronger.

I have made a conscious choice to remain close with our team but I have done so with the knowledge that there are certain limits.  I don’t socialize with them out of the office unless it is a team event.  I also don’t offer advice about their personal lives unless the advice is requested.  Most importantly, all team members know that I will defer to my husband on staff related issues.  But they are also aware that I am their strongest advocate if the situation warrants my involvement.  I’ve realized over the years that close can be good!