Codependency is usually thought of as an addiction to drugs or alcohol, but I am referring to codependency in the dental practice as a dependency on others to give us satisfaction and feelings of self-worth. The codependent behavior is that interchange of actions and reactions that eventually become a controlling device between team members.
Most of us have learned codependent behaviors in a family environment from an early age, and although much of it is needed and natural, playing them out in the modern workplace is a whole different story. Specifically, it’s the negative behaviors that contributed to the codependent behavior that can be dysfunctional, destructive, and even expensive.
How would you spot codependency in your practice? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is a team member may be over involved with a co-worker to help get “their” work done?
- Is a team member feeling responsible for solving others’ problems to prevent them from being “thrown under the bus”?
- Do you notice a team member expending a lot of energy to solve another team member’s problems, without receiving approval to do so?
- Do you have team members which fear rejection more than what you would consider natural?
- Do any team members assertively (even aggressively) act out a need for control of others?
- Do you have any team members that manipulate others to have them feel guilty?
- Are any team member “pot-stirrers” if they cannot find a crisis?
A codependent team member may appear to be a well-liked individual always willing to step forward to be helpful to create many positive connections among others. But as in true of much of like, too much of anything, especially in an overbearing manner, leads to a dysfunctional relationship between two or more team members.
So the big question is then this: What can YOU do about it?
Your first and most prudent action would be to get professional guidance to help you lead your team out of these behaviors and allow for others to be responsible for their own strengths and failures. If you aren’t confident that you’re able to do this alone, work with a professional – be it a professional certified coach, therapist, or psychologist – to work with you and your team.
If you find that you’re acting codependently, consider taking these steps:
- Set boundaries, verbalize them and do not let others overstep them
- Let go of your need to be there all the time for the other needy individual
- Forgive yourself for feeling bad about not being able to help
- You can love others, but you must love yourself and take care of your needs.
- Believe in yourself
- Seek professional guidance
In terms of steps you can take in your office about team members’ co-dependent behavior:
- Do not enable others’ codependent behaviors
- Be assertive
- Validate team members’ needs, but remove yourself from dealing with their problems personal or otherwise
- Recognize and reward positive behaviors
- Make certain job descriptions are written down, understood, and acted upon by empowering rather than enabling, to encourage the team member to take responsibility
- Document patterns of behavior
- Set boundaries and rely on your practice’s policies if things do not improve
By addressing these codependent behavior patterns, you can have a healthier, happier, and more productive practice!