By Bryant Truitt, MBA, CCS, CFE and Karol Peters, CDC, RDH of Brytan & Associates
This is the fifth installment of our six-part series on Spotting a Weasel – the Personality of a Dental Embezzler. So far, we’ve covered 12 out of 18 of the most prominent RED FLAGS indicating you may have a dental embezzler in your practice. The three RED FLAGS we’re covering today are further ways dental weasels ingratiate themselves with the doctors, other team members and patients to divert attention from the harm they are doing in the practice.
Secretive – wants private office with door lock
Dental embezzlers truly resemble weasels in their efforts to be secretive about their activities. The dental weasel will want to have a private office with a door that locks for two main reasons:
- He/she can create embezzlement schemes in private
- It’s a sign of prestige putting the dental weasel in a power position in the practice
Often the dental weasel will gain more authority along with the acquisition of the private office by taking on responsibilities for managing personnel including handling disciplinary write-ups and reviews and managing the ‘locking’ file cabinet of personnel files. In these instances, the dental weasel acquires the role of office manager and insulates the doctor from the stress of managing the practice.
There are many excuses the dental weasel gives for wanting the private office:
- They can get more work done without interruptions (e.g., general office noise; patient traffic, phone calls, office drama – see below, etc.)
- They can handle difficult conversations with other team members – these are conversations doctors dread having. However, they are usually ones that the doctor should initiate instead of abdicating the role of leader in the practice. Once this occurs, the office manager is seen as the leader instead of the doctor.
- It makes it easier for the weasel to do the doctor’s personal business without worrying about other team members being privy to that private information.
For an office manager a closed door is counter-productive to their main role of effectively managing the day-to-day operation of the practice. It removes them from providing timely oversight of the front desk and clinical areas. They are unable to hear things going on with patients that require their input.
No Vacations and/or Days Off and/or Eager to work overtime hours
Team members who want to do the practice harm cannot afford to take a vacation since they run the risk of someone discovering one or more of their schemes when they are not there to handle the cover-up. Additionally, by not taking vacation or time off, it furthers their goal of being indispensable to the practice. The only time the dental weasel takes time off is when the office is completely closed.
Dental weasels will:
- Come to work even when they’re sick
- Refuse to cross-train anyone to handle their responsibilities
- Not take CE courses outside of the practice
The dental weasel looks for opportunities to work overtime. Overtime keeps them in the office by themselves and unobserved. Or, another ploy they use is to request remote access so they can get their after hours work done from home.
Drama – keeps pot stirred
Drama serves the dental weasel in many ways:
- Drama is a way of distracting the doctor and other team members from the harm the dental weasel is creating in the practice. It keeps the doctor and team members focused on personnel issues, patient drama and/or the practice policies. These are often things that are manufactured by dental weasels to camouflage their schemes.
- The dental weasel uses drama to gain additional authority, especially hiring, firing and disciplinary actions. Knowing the personality of the doctor and his/her desire to avoid conflict, the dental weasel is only too happy to become more indispensable to the practice by taking on this role. Furthermore, authority in the practice helps the dental weasel get rid of team members and/or vendors who are a threat to him/her.
- Drama is an often used excuse to gain a private work area because he/she just can’t get his/her work done due to all of the distractions in the practice.
- The dental weasel’s own personal drama is a way to draw the doctor into his/her crises in turn causing the doctor to empathize with the weasel’s problems.
A Real Weasel from our Files
A classic case from our files involves a weasel who joined a large successful; multi-specialty practice as an officer of the corporation. The weasel started out giving the doctors reports on production, collections and A/R, collectively and by provider. In the months following the hiring of the weasel, things moved along very smoothly. Reports were made available on a regular basis to the doctors, and they were pleased with the performance. As a result of this initial success, the weasel secured a private office in the practice and gained additional authority by controlling hiring, firing and management of all team members both front office and clinical.
Over time, the weasel began discontinuing practice management software reports to the doctors to the point where they were eventually receiving no reports. The doctors didn’t ask any questions about what happened to the reporting. Eventually the weasel discontinued entering invoices, data and other obligations into the accounting software. When asked by the bookkeeper about reports needed to complete quarterly financial statements and tax payments, the weasel would put her off.
During our popular boots on the ground investigation of the practice, we discovered the weasel had successfully blocked all reports going to the doctors, found a way to get credit cards issued in the weasel’s name and became a signatory on the corporate practice account. By obtaining a private office in the practice, the weasel was able to shelter activities to the point that the team and the doctors had no idea what the weasel was doing. This resulted in the weasel being undiscovered for several years during which time over $300,000 went missing.
If you’re concerned you may have a weasel in your practice, we encourage you to call us for a free, no obligation 30 minute consultation at 210.241.6329.
Educating dentists on identifying embezzlers or fraudsters hiding out in their practices is our expertise. Contact us to speak at your next dental meeting or study club by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us at 210.241.6329.
We want to thank Karol Peters, an associate of Brytan & Associates, for her input on today’s article.