It’s a common lament, especially around the holidays, that you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. And as an employee in an orthodontic office, you usually can’t choose your co-workers either! So, all that positive team-building talk of “we’re a family” is actually pretty spot on! And if we’re a family, it’s safe to say we might not always get along.

Indeed, no matter which role you snagged at your ortho office, when you spend every day with your “family,” it can start to feel like a Thanksgiving edition of Groundhog Day (or Palm Springs on Hulu, which is excellent, by the way). So, if you have any hope of serving your patients effectively, it’s essential to learn how to play nice with others!

We know you’re busy, so we won’t go into ALL the personality types, but let’s break down some of the usual suspects:

The Go-Getter

Who they are: These are the ones dedicated to their desk (or operatory). They’re rarely seen just standing around doing nothing! They love to volunteer for extra projects, or events, and tend to take the lead wherever possible. Their strong work ethic is usually reflected in the long hours they spend in the office!

How to handle ‘em: A rising tide raises all ships! Or, think of it like drafting in NASCAR. Getting in close with these ladies is a great way to boost your own effort, as well as theirs. In most cases, they’re thrilled to see someone else performing at their level. And positive production is contagious! Go-Getters are going to support & encourage you to work harder, as well as develop your own professional attitude. Be their cheerleader, and they’ll be yours back!

The Solo Artist

Who they are: The Solo Artist is typically the employee who eats lunch alone. Their work is well-executed, but they’re simply not the type to engage socially. The good news is they’re not likely to get caught up gossiping with other employees. But that also means you won’t see them hop into a group photo or volunteer for an office TikTok either!

How to handle ‘em: The best advice is to not push the Solo Artist to engage socially; doing so will only frustrate both of you! Instead, show that you recognize their achievements, develop independent projects for them to crush through, and make sure there are ways for them to contribute to the practice’s marketing objectives that don’t require a cameo in the latest social posts.

The Know-It-All

Who they are: Who needs Google or Siri? This co-worker has ALL the answers. Whether it has anything to do with her side of the clinic or not, she’ll be quick to point out a “better” way of doing things. She has strong opinions, and she’s not afraid to share them. And while being “outspoken” can be fine, this one is frequently closed to new ideas or collaborating with the team!

How to handle ‘em: Dealing with these guys is usually a case of “grin… and bear it!” Focus on keeping a smile, and holding your tongue, during such interactions. Allowing them their freedom of speech is the best way to shorten ANY interaction. Rely on your management team to curb this one’s freedom, but don’t hesitate to keep a mental list of situations where The Know-It-All displayed her unsolicited advice. The only way to break this habit is to provide specific examples of their “know-it-all-ness,” and enough time for professional growth. Just pick your battles!

The Lifer

Who they are: Most orthodontic offices have one or two veterans in either the clinic or the admin side. These are ones who’ve been with the office for the longest time. They came with the furniture. The good news is they know all the ins and outs of various procedures, appointments & policies, and can be great mentors to new employees. The bad news is that it often comes with a healthy dose of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

How to handle ‘em: Recognizing their knowledge of the office is an excellent way to develop social connections with this group. Not sure about a certain process or type of appointment procedure? They’re a wealth of knowledge. Showing your trust in them, will also motivate them to assist you in your endeavors. And when it comes to change, remember, they’ve ultimately been here so long because they love it, and they’re emotionally invested. So, any fear of change is usually rooted in a strong desire to protect their family!

The Distracter

Who they are: At first glance, these are the ones that initially come across as being “busy.” They’re always moving around the office. But are they really doing any work? They love to talk about non-work-related topics and are always eager to share any content not related to your job. If you’re not careful, you can lose precious time on celebrity gossip, discussing sports, or watching cat videos on YouTube… instead of completing your tasks or getting to your next patient!

How to handle ‘em: The best way to deal with Distracters, is to be direct with them. Intercept them as soon as they approach you with the latest viral video. Just politely explain to them that you have work to do, but you’ll be more than happy to talk during your free time or on lunch. For management, it might mean reevaluating their job responsibilities, or physical placement in the office, to help keep them focused and on task.

These are just a few of the many faces you’ll see in the family circus. But if you can master dealing with these folks, your quality of life will increase dramatically. The bottom line is, we can’t change the cards we’re dealt, just how we play our hand. Our hope for you is that at least there aren’t too many jokers!

Got a coworker type that we left off? Have some pro moves for handling the ones we discussed? Sound off in the comments!