3 Ways Staff Conflict Hurts Your Practice
You just overheard your hygienist complaining about one of your other team members. She’s upset because the Office Manager (who happens to be one of your long-term employees) can’t seem to get to work on time and regularly misses the morning huddle.
You basically have two choices in this situation. You can ignore the comments and go on with your day, or you can take steps to squash this brewing conflict before it boils out of control. Unfortunately, most dentists choose the first option. They don’t want to upset their loyal Office Manager after all, and they’re pretty sure these two professional adults can work out any issues they have on their own.
Yes, this is a common reaction to staff conflict, but it’s also one that’s usually pretty costly.
Staff conflict doesn’t just hurt the team members involved. It also hurts your practice, and that’s why you simply can’t ignore it. When you notice problems among team members, take them aside and talk with them about the situation. Together, come up with a solution that benefits the people involved as well as the practice.
Still not convinced it’s your place to deal with staff conflict? Here are three examples of ways conflict can damage your practice that just might change your mind.
1. You lose patients. Your patients want to visit a warm, welcoming office that offers top-notch care. While you might think that’s what your practice provides, if team members are dealing with conflict, chances are they’re not as attentive to patients as they should be. That means customer service and even the care they provide suffers.
Not only that, patients can feel the tension as soon as they walk into the office. They might even overhear team members gossiping about each other or notice negative body language while they’re waiting in the reception area or during their actual appointment. This vibe is sure to make patients uncomfortable and might be enough to prompt them to seek dental treatment elsewhere. So you lose their business as well as any family and friends they might have referred.
2. It hurts practice productivity. If your team members are busy gossiping about each other, they’re not focusing on meeting production goals. They’re distracted and simply not motivated to excel. The conflict leaves them feeling disconnected to the practice, and dreading the thought of coming to work each day.
You might not realize it, but this drop in productivity can cost you thousands of dollars a year. That’s right. I said thousands. It’s a practice killer, but it can be avoided if you address staff conflict before it hurts morale. Once the conflict is put to rest, your team members will be more productive and once again work together toward one common goal: practice success.
3. You lose employees. When staff conflict takes over a practice, it makes your employees pretty unhappy – even those who aren’t directly involved in the conflict. Instead of coming to a supportive, positive work environment each day, they have to deal with gossip and negativity. Their job is no longer rewarding, which could be enough to send even the most loyal employees searching for a new job.
An increase in staff turnover can cost you both time and money. Most dentists dread the hiring process, so when a position opens up, they tend to bring on the first person who shows them an impressive resume. This leads to bad hires and more conflict. Following a hiring process will help you avoid these bad hires, while dealing with staff conflict will help you retain team members who are happy to come to work each day. That means you won’t have to go through the process nearly as often.
It’s important to remember staff conflict isn’t avoidable. Issues will come up – it’s just part of owning a dental practice. But that doesn’t mean you should let these issues damage your business. While it’s tempting to ignore problems and hope they go away on their own, that approach will only lead to even bigger problems down the road. Bottom line: Don’t let petty arguments between team members get in the way of practice growth and, ultimately, your success.
Need more guidance? Don’t worry. That’s what I’m here for. Consider contacting me and taking my Conflict Competency Training. This assessment instrument deals with conflict behaviors in the workplace and can help you and your team members improve the way you respond to conflict.
Next week: How to deal with staff conflict
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
New Practice Location = Less New Patients
Office Manager Training Case #OM596
Dr. Surely and Dr. Shyley (names have been changed) decided they needed a larger space and better lease than what they had. So, they leased a practice located five miles away from their existing location, closed the old office and moved into the new address.
Their Office Manager, Betty, attended McKenzie Management’s two-day professional Office Manager Training because she wanted to build the new practice to be better than the last. Betty stated that because the new practice location was only five miles away from the old, it wasn’t a concern that patients would not follow. She said most patients had been informed verbally of the intended move, but she wasn’t sure if all were notified. PPO patients were the largest of the patient demographic and they had not been told unless they called in for an appointment.
When scheduling for the new practice, emphasis was placed on trying to get existing patients to follow to the new location. There was no marketing plan in place to tell the new community area that they were there to serve them. The new lease location had a restriction for signage, so they didn’t have any. There wasn’t an announcement in the local paper or any other marketing such as direct mail, radio or email blast.
The result was holes in the schedule, cancellations and low new patient numbers. Some older patients felt it was too far to travel, and others just didn’t like the change and weren’t prepared yet to accept it. Patients with children thought it was too far to come after school.
The steps Betty should have taken prior to the move:
• Two months out from your expected move date, start telling patients you are moving. Be joyful about the move, even if there are challenges. Don’t do or say anything negative.
• Prepare and display a flyer stating that you are moving and give the new location along with a map. State the month of the move if you don’t yet have the actual moving date.
• When patients check in for their appointments, office staff should tell them about the move. The dentist and hygienist should also be informing patients about the move and talking about the new location.
• Order appointment cards and stationery with the new address. Use the cards and point out the new address when passing them out.
• On the appointment scheduler, each patient who has an appointment that will occur after the move should be mailed a letter or postcard or contacted electronically.
• To reactivate patients, use this opportunity to both alert them to the move and ask them to call to schedule an appointment. You can also inactivate those who will not be returning to the practice.
• Business staff who confirm appointments should remind patients of the new location, whether by text, email or phone.
• Publish a notice in the newspaper about your move. It’s an opportunity to welcome potential new patients to the practice. Design a marketing piece with information about you and the services the practice offers.
After the move, it isn’t too late to take some important steps:
• Go over the above list and do what still applies. Go back over your appointment book identifying all missed appointments. Call each person to reschedule, reminding them of your new location.
• Some may have already scheduled with another dentist. Don’t be dismayed – say that you would still like to work with them, especially if it’s a patient with whom you’ve had a good or long-time relationship.
• Take every opportunity to thank your patients for their confidence in choosing you as their dentist.
Want to learn more about growing your own practice and identifying areas that lead to decline? Call McKenzie Management today to schedule a class in Dental Practice Management.
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