What a Busted Tooth Taught Me About Workplace Reliability

Last Thursday while vacationing with my family in a small Colorado mountain town, I suffered a personal crisis when one of my highly visible dental crowns split in two and fell out.

I had Crystal, the receptionist at my dentist for the past 15 years, on the phone in minutes and explained to her the severity of the situation. After six minutes on hold, Crystal returned to tell me that Dr. B wasn’t going to be in on Friday, but that he could fit me in on Monday morning.

“How am I supposed to get through the next four days without this much-needed tooth, Crystal?”

The challenge: Finding a Denver dentist on a Friday

She replied, “Dr. B says that you should get some super glue and apply it to both sides of the crown. Make sure your mouth is dry and it should stick.”

Knees bent, I followed the directions exactly as given, praying this prescribed remedy would carry me through the weekend. It didn’t make it through dinner.

Friday morning, after several failed attempts at super-gluing the crown in place, I drove back to Denver and called Dr. B’s office hoping to reach Crystal, or an on-duty hygienist, or at the very least – a recording of an emergency phone number.

No luck. The phone rang off the hook. Dr. B’s office was closed.

So I turned to Google and found 35 dental offices within a 10-mile radius of my home. I called 34 of them and each call was greeted by a different answering service or voice message, but each essentially telling callers that office hours were Monday thru Thursday.

“No one in Denver needs a dentist on Friday?” I thought. Dejected, I almost gave up.

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The importance of reliability

You can imagine my elation when the 35th (and final) call was answered on the first ring by a friendly voice who listened to my dilemma and invited me to come down as soon as I could. She assured me I would be seen promptly by an experienced, highly skilled dentist who would make this unfortunate problem of mine go away.

Two and a half hours later, I was on my way out to dinner with my wife. I had undergone a painless root canal (seriously, I didn’t feel any discomfort at all), I had temporary crown in place that looked as good as the original, and I had an appointment to complete the work in two weeks when the permanent crown came back from the lab.

On Monday morning, I called Crystal and requested that my dental records be transferred to my new dentist.

Like all core work ethic values, reliability is a 360 proposition. You can’t depend on others – customers or your employees – if you don’t model 100 percent reliability in every aspect of your business.

While that doesn’t mean you have to keep 24/7 hours, it does mean that you need to provide solutions to those who have problems that may exceed your tee time.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit revivingworkethic.com.

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester


1 Comment on “What a Busted Tooth Taught Me About Workplace Reliability

  1. I hope you informed Crystal of the reason you took your business elsewhere. Glad that SOMEbody out there has a dentist office open on Fridays.

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