Date ArticleType
1/28/2015 Insights

You've Been Promoted to Office Manager

You've Been Promoted to Office Manager
by Cindy Ishimoto

The doctor believes these words are complimentary and positive, however they can strike fear into the hearts and minds of most who are on the receiving end. As your mind begins to experience an onslaught of questions, you barely hear anything the doctor is saying.

Many times doctors promote people to office manager from within the existing team.  This can be very successful or disastrous for all.  If you have experience being an office manager you have your own thoughts as to what is expected, and if you have never been an office manager you are wondering what is expected.

Success will be determined by continually and effectively communicating with the doctor and the team, which means clarifying all conversations for needs, expectations, goals, and agreements. If it isn’t written, it isn’t real; ensure that all expectations are in writing so that there are no disagreements down the road about what was said and what was heard.

  • Be clear about your role, are you simply an office manager or are you expected to continue your current job description and perform your current tasks along with being the office manager?
    • If you are expected to continue your current job description, are there tasks that will then be passed on to other team members?
      • What hours in your day will be allocated to office managing and for your existing job description?
    • Make sure that you have a list of all tasks expected under your office manager job description.
      • If there are tasks on this list that you do not already know how to do, ask for training; who will be doing the training and when will that training be provided?
      • Clarify what your work hours will be.
    • Clear up all questions about your wage: is your hourly pay increasing, will you continue to be paid overtime, are you switching to a salary based wage, is there a change to your benefit structure, etc.?
    • Be specific about what authority you have and what you do not have, this can be tricky if you do not define it before you begin the job.
  • Ask the doctor to make an announcement to the entire team about your promotion and be very specific about the expectations of your role and the date you will begin. 
    • If the job description and tasks (expectations) are defined and have been documented, I would recommend that these documents be shared with the entire team.
    • The natural, most unasked question from the team members will be, “what does this mean to us?” or “will she/he be our boss?”  Answering this before it is asked will save time and decrease the fear that will naturally pop up from the team.
    • Have the doctor share with the team what authority you have, what things there are to work out with you, and what specifics the doctor may still be in charge of.
    • Share with the team if you will be continuing your current job description, what tasks will you continue to do, and which ones will be reassigned and to whom.
  • Create a calendar of training needs and get these done within the first quarter of your new role. If you do not accomplish this rapidly, the lack of knowledge will handicap you from mastering your new role.
    • Include weekly meetings on your calendar with your doctor to discuss your progress, ask questions, follow through and up on projects, and the business needs of the practice. Clarify and document all decisions including the expected time frame for completion.
  • Join the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) or, if you are already a member, begin to participate in the discussion forums. This is one of the fastest ways to learn things without having to recreate the wheel.
    • Negotiate with your doctor an additional benefit: attendance to the annual AADOM conference. This meeting not only provides fantastic learning events, the convention floor vendors also teach about their products and assist you in taking home many samples and supportive documentation. The networking with others is icing on the cake. You will get to know others who do what you do, and you can ask questions about their challenges and what they have done about them. You may create a lasting friend who you can contact in the future for questions and resources; this is worth the investment to attend this meeting.
  • Possible list of tasks that may be included in your new job description.
    • Create and maintain the practice calendar (practice open and closed dates, employee hours, staff meetings, staff individual performance evaluations, C.E. courses, staff birthdays and anniversary dates of hire, staff functions, etc.)
    • Keep the personnel handbook updated and employees current and trained on its contents.  Maintain the employee personnel files ensuring that all forms are current and updated and securely store them.
    • Assist with the practice bookkeeping and record keeping.
    • Maintain, update, and keep the practice current on all HIPAA procedures, train the new team members.
    • Schedule annual CPR, OSHA training, and HIPAA training for the entire team.
    • Lead huddles and staff meetings
    • Create and continually update all training manuals.
    • Train new staff in the systems that you are in charge of, along with assigning team members to train the new staff member. Train and retrain existing staff.
    • Monitor practice goals, production, collections, and accounts receivable numbers for success.
    • Be the link between the staff and the doctor, take care of and solve concerns and challenges.
    • Oversee projects and assist in achieving due dates.
    • Manage the practice marketing system
    • Solve patient relationship challenges

This is a short list of the possible tasks that could be assigned to you as a new office manager in the practice, it is more than likely your list will be longer and involve not only business systems but patient care systems, patient service systems, and staff management.

Cindy Ishimoto 300dpi 2013   

Cindy Ishimoto began her career in the dental profession over thirty years ago, first as an assistant, and business auxiliary and then progressing to a management position. Cindy's knowledge in all facets of dentistry, people skills, motivation and communication is reflected in her ability to teach and train. Cindy's love of people and dentistry enable her to share her enthusiasm to build successful-people oriented practices. Cindy offers many services for dental practices as a speaker and a consultant. She can be reached at 808-375-7344, or