How to Get Staff Conflict Under Control
As the CEO of your dental practice, you sometimes have to deal with uncomfortable situations – and that includes staff conflict. While I know you’d much rather focus on the dentistry and ignore any problems that arise among team members, that hands-off approach is costing your practice money. When team members are busy gossiping about each other or even arguing, it cuts into their production and your bottom line. It also makes patients uncomfortable, and could send them looking for a new dental home.
Every practice deals with conflict from time to time, but you can’t let it boil out of control. It should be addressed as soon as you know there’s a problem. Not sure how? I’ve put together some tips designed to help you deal with staff conflict and get your practice back on track.
Stay positive. Conflict can create a negative vibe that brings everyone in your practice down, and that includes your patients. Don’t let it. Instead, choose to be positive, and encourage your team members to do the same as you work together to find a solution.
Be strategic. It’s easy to react to conflict with emotion, but this will only make the situation worse. You’ll have much better results if you react to conflict strategically. Remember it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong; your goal is to resolve the problem so everyone can move on. Sit down with the team members involved and calmly talk with them about what’s causing the issue. From there, work together to find a solution.
Stop gossip before it starts. Snide remarks and petty gossip fuel staff conflict, and will do nothing but hurt your practice. Tell team members to only talk about co-workers if they’re in the same room, and to walk away or change the subject when others don’t want to follow this rule.
Hold daily huddles. These meetings give your team members the opportunity to talk about problems they’re having before they become bigger issues. Daily huddles also help improve communication among your team members, which could prevent a problem from popping up down the road.
Develop clear policies. Now is a great time to create policies that outline standards for professional behavior and how you want your office to be run. Not going to tolerate employees gossiping about each other, or taking personal calls when they should be dialing for dollars? Make that clear in your policies. Include these policies in the employee handbook, and have every team member read and sign off on them.
Get monthly updates. Communication is key to avoiding conflict, which is why I suggest holding monthly staff meetings. Team members should be prepared to provide an update on their systems during these monthly gatherings. Take the time to talk about each system and how you can make improvements – but don’t stop there. Delegate employees to pursue strategies discussed in the meeting, and then set deadlines. This gets everyone involved in strengthening the practice, and will also help make sure everyone is on the same page.
Stop trying to avoid it. No, you didn’t become a dentist to deal with these types of situations, but that doesn’t matter. You have to embrace your role as CEO and address conflict as soon as you notice it. If you don’t, it will only damage your practice. Team members will continue their passive aggressive behavior, and will become more and more disconnected from your practice.
Unresolved conflict may even lead to turnover, meaning you’ll need to spend time and money to find replacements. And trust me, even if you choose to ignore conflict, your patients won’t. The negative atmosphere will leave them looking for a new dental home, cutting into your production numbers and bottom line.
Your team members look to you for guidance. You’re the leader, and you must step in to help resolve conflict when it arises. This might make you uncomfortable, but it’s part of owning a dental practice. Once you work with team members to come up with a solution, you’ll see positive change in your practice. Team members will be happier, more productive, and focused on helping the practice succeed. Your practice will become more efficient and patients will be more likely to entrust you with their dental care.
I know dealing with staff conflict isn’t easy, but remember I’m here to help. Don’t let conflict damage your practice. Instead, face it head on and work as a team to squash it. Your practice will be stronger for it, and that means increased production and a more robust bottom line.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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