I recently attended the University of Dayton’s Faith at Work breakfast event – sponsored by the Center for the Integration of Faith and Work in the School of Business. Our speaker shared his ‘pilgrimage’ with faith and work. Influenced by his Catholic father who assembled headlights for Chrysler, he went on to teach in a Catholic school and later created a company that provided job training for displaced workers – particularly those from the manufacturing sector. He came to see his work as more than just helping people to earn a paycheck, but as a way to bring meaning into a life.
As I chatted with our speaker, we talked about the meaning of work at all stages. For college students who select a major in order to focus on a career of work. For working adults constantly searching for a balance between work and family, which can be especially exciting for families raising young children. Finally, for those reaching retirement age who may feel ready for a change, but reluctant to give up a meaningful contribution of work.
Thinking about meaningful work in dentistry, I believe we are in a great position. We have the opportunity to make a difference through our work every day. Whether you are the dentist, assistant, hygienist or office manager – you have the ability to integrate your faith and your beliefs about what gives you meaning, into your every day worklife. As the administrator for our group, I had the opportunity to talk about this topic with one of my young, new hire secretaries just this week. She is completing her first 90 days of training and has really struggled. Like some new to the health care field, she was ill and missed several days of work due to sickness. A pre-planned vacation also had her out of the office just over a week as well. This level of absenteeism made it hard for her to accomplish the training needed – and her confidence was shaken. Shaken to the point that she was questioning whether dentistry was the right path for her – and she shared that she and her husband talked about what meaningful work looks like to each of them and that she wasn’t sure she was finding the right fit.
What a wonderful conversation to have so early in a career! I felt privileged that she shared such personal thoughts with me – and I encouraged her to continue to think about what work is most meaningful for her, so she can learn to recognize it. Thanks to both the strong ethical values in our practice and our organized staff training program, she has the opportunity to develop her skills in dentistry – and to identify where she feels called to use those skills.
The takeaway from this story may be recognizing that each person on your staff has their own faith at work story. You have the opportunity to acknowledge each team member’s unique reasons for work – you can ask them to identify why they work and what meaning they see in their work. If they’re struggling to see meaning beyond earning a paycheck then perhaps you can help them connect the dots from their strengths and passions to the results of their work that you have observed. By helping your staff recognize the meaning in their work, you strengthen their sense of purpose and teach them that this search for meaning has value. It is the rare employer that reaches beyond the task list to find the heart of work for her staff – and you have this opportunity to strengthen your own meaning of work.
Supporting staff to find meaning in their work is just one way you can run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog:
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