Combatting Incivility and Disrespect with Recognition: Honouring the Dental Hygiene Community

by Sarah McVanel, Chief Recognition Officer, Greatness Magnified

Sadly, many professionals are the direct targets of bullying, incivility and harassment daily: emergency room nurses, police officers, customer service professionals, and airline personnel (I see this every flight post-COVID!) You likely wouldn’t put one professional group into that category, and yet it’s a colossal problem: dental hygienists.

A Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) survey revealed that over 40% of their members regularly experience incivility, bullying and harassment. It’s not what you may think. Patients are low on the list of perpetrators. It’s most often the dentist and sometimes coworkers.

image of a dentist examining a patient with a hygienist looking onWhat happens when the person who is the most likely to be uncivil (e.g., the dentist) is also the boss? What happens when the practice is so tiny they have no HR department crafting policies or conducting investigations? Whom do they go to? Hopefully, they have an Office Manager they trust; however, that person is also paid by the boss, so if your mortgage is riding on how you handle the issue, it can become a true ethical crisis. If everyone’s job is on the line, everyone cannot help but ask, “is it worth sticking my neck out?”

No wonder it’s not uncommon for people to jump offices and possibly leave the field.

Sorry to be a downer. You know it kills me when I am.

Facts are facts, though. How can we talk about recognition-rich cultures when some workplaces aren’t psychologically or physically safe (or both)?

Add to this the fact that the work puts a toll on their bodies. Repetitive strain to the wrists. Backache from holding a hunched position. Stress from one eye on the clock to keep the day moving.

Not to mention how, during COVID, that N95 mask for 8+ hours created severe respiratory complications.

It is also a field that has few full-time secure positions, leading to a lack of benefits and job security.

To bring it home, your friendly neighbourhood dental hygienist may wield those sharp, shiny tools, and you may even be slightly fearful of going to the dentist. However, that dental hygienist may be standing between you and tongue cancer, root canals, and gum disease (my mom says her periodontal work was more painful than childbirth!).

image of Sarah McVanel smiling and text that says Happy National Dental Hygienists Week! #smilecampaignSo what can you do? Well, I’m glad you asked:

  • The next time you’re getting into the chair, thank your hygienist for showing up
  • At the end of your appointment, compliment them for something they would care about (e.g., “you were very gentle, and I hardly felt a thing!)
  • Show up on time to keep their day flowing smoothly
  • Say something if you hear unkindness
  • Post a Google review praising your hygienist
  • If you feel the workplace is toxic, vote with your feet and leave the practice
  • Post a pic of your smile the first week of April and say, “Happy National Dental Hygienists Week!”
  • Click here to copy a graphic that we created for you to share (right-click and copy)

We shouldn’t stop at dental hygienists. Is there any worker who doesn’t deserve this when they make our day better, our lives safer, and our health better?

We All Have a Responsibility To Fight Bullying!

Bullies and harassers are empowered by silence. As a customer, you have the power to make a difference, possibly more than those working in the office.

The gentlest and most positive way to give energy and a voice to a group is to recognize in all of your daily interactions directly and even post on social. The more intense way to recognize is by seeing and calling out unhealthy behaviour; standing up for people is saying, “I see you, and you’re worth more than this.”

Incivility lives in the shadows; it hijacks the back of our insecurities. It feeds off silence; it is empowered by disconnection. The more you see it, the harder it is to ignore. As my safety friends say, “don’t walk on by.”

image of Sarah McVanel in her studio and text that says Practicing Empathy at WorkRecognition isn’t a magic bullet; however, it removes power from perpetrators and creates energy amped by kindness. Your small gesture of appreciation may be the nudge they need to use their voice and remind them that they are worthy of respect. What if your act of recognition could be the impetus for them to stand up for themselves and hold their power?

Where do you see a lack of kindness and respect where you shop, dine and receive care, and what can you do to help? Who will you recognize more of and perhaps be the best part of their day? Give them some props!

Here are more great tips to help get rid of incivility & bullying in your workplace:

Dealing with incivility and bullying in your workplace? Here’s a course that will help:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Deb Rakonjac

Organizational Development, Purolator Inc.

"Sarah nailed it!  She worked with the planning group to learn about the organization, the audience, the desired key messages and integrated it seamlessly into her keynote. Her energy was contagious! We received rave reviews of this portion of our event and Sarah was able to speak to all members of our organization in a way that motivated them to recognize others everyday. Our executives were extraordinarily pleased and integrated FROGging into their recent board meeting. Purolator is grateful to Sarah for dropping the pebble and we continue to see the ripples from this session across the organization. Working with Tami was phenomenal and the supports were easy to integrate to ensure the session went well. Thanks to you both!!"
Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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