Learn How to Best Work with Your Office Manager

Kathy Morrow
Source: "Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for Your Through the Secrets of Personality Type" by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, Kelly Tieger, Business Insider



The competition for patients is fierce. In fact, 26% of dentists in private practice say they aren’t busy enough and could treat more patients. While your expertise in the field may attract potential patients, it’s often your office culture that keeps patients coming back—and your office manager plays a key role in developing that friendly, caring environment patients crave.

Although it sounds cliché, your employees are your greatest asset. They’re the ones answering phone calls, booking appointments, and filing claims on behalf of patients. In most practices, an office manager is the person responsible for hiring and training those employees. An office manager who creates a warm and relaxing environment—for you, your staff, and your patients—is vital to keeping your practice profitable. 

Your office manager likely wears many hats, from bookkeeping and scheduling to training and marketing. Each of these tasks can affect patient satisfaction. They can also affect your ability to be a successful and sought-after dentist. Understanding how to hire and collaborate with your office manager is essential to running a rewarding and lucrative practice.

Understanding Common DentistPersonality Types 

According to a 20-year longitudinal study by Creighton University, dentists often fall into two Myers-Briggs personality types: introversion, sensing, thinking, and judgement (ISTJ) or extroversion, sensing, thinking, and judgement (ESTJ). If you’re an ISTJ or ESTJ, you’re dedicated to your role as a dentist and have high standards for yourself and your practice. You often communicate based on facts and logic instead of intuition and feelings.

To balance out your personality type and foster a warm and inviting atmosphere, it’s important to find an office manager who thinks differently than you do. Your office manager needs to be detail-oriented and organized. Your manager should also be empathetic and friendly when interacting with staff and patients. You should see your office manager as the glue that holds your office together.

As an ISTJ or ESTJ, you favor autonomy and do not like to rely on other people to get a job done. But running a dental practice is hard, and there’s a lot more than patient care to doing it successfully. The most profitable dentists understand that it simply is not possible to do it all themselves. This is where your office manager plays an important role.

To have a successful relationship with your office manager, you must trust them to perform their duties and keep the office running smoothly. Diverse personality types can often create an effective team. However, if not properly understood, differing insights could lead to conflict in how an office is run.

Understanding Common Office ManagerPersonality Types

There are two Myers-Briggs personality types that are most common to office managers: extroversion, sensing, feeling, and judgement (ESFJ) and introversion, sensing, feeling, and judgement (ISFJ)

Unlike dentists, who make their decisions using logical analysis, office managers tend to make decisions based on their own personal values and how others will be affected by their decisions. They’re “feelers” who tend to be sensitive and cooperative. They thrive when they can help others set and achieve goals, whether it be their own staff or patients. This key personality trait helps a dental office remain cohesive and structured.

ESFJs are naturally social individuals with strong practical skills and a strong sense of duty. They value stability and security, making them loyal and trustworthy employees. Because they value stability, they seek harmony and care deeply about the feelings of others. They’re strong team players who are good at connecting with others.

Although ISFJs are more reserved than their extroverted counterparts, they have well-developed people skills and foster robust social relationships. They’re universal helpers who enjoy sharing their knowledge, experience, time, and energy with others. Their meticulous and careful approach means that ISFJs are often reliable and patient individuals who are willing to go above and beyond to ensure success. 

Balancing Your Practice’s Key Personalities

A dentist who has an office manager with an ESFJ or ISFJ personality should provide them with support and trust. These personality types may be prone to low self-confidence because they spend much of their energy boosting others. However, they are some of the most organized and capable personality types. Providing them with encouragement will give them confidence to perform their best.

Office managers are decisive, and they shine when they can create a plan and stick to it. This attribute is often a great asset in a dental office, but there are occasions when flexibility is essential. Your office manager will likely be most uncomfortable during a time of unexpected change or uncertainty. While adaptability is not one of their strengths, they are practical and action-oriented. They may feel frustration or stress due to change, but that will not stop them from creating a plan and keeping your practice moving forward. 

If you’re a dentist with an ESTJ or ISTJ personality type, stubbornness is one of your weaknesses. You may also be insensitive to other’sfeelings. These two traits are important to be aware of when working with office managers. Your office manager is likely sensitive and may not handle criticism well. They aim to please and create harmony, so criticism of their work is taken personally. When providing feedback to your office manager, do so in a constructive way without anger.

Navigating all the personalities in your dental office can be tricky. When you understand what inspires or worries the people around you, it can help build better working relationships. Encourage your team to take the Myers-Briggs personality test at 16personalities.com and take one yourself! Not only will the results provide insight for your team, but it will help you create a balanced office and serve your patients better.

Ms. Morrow is the director of professional relations at Delta Dental of Arizona. She has more than 30 years of combined experience working in the dental insurance industry and managing dental office operations. She can be reached at kmorrow@deltadentalaz.com.

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