Visit our website at
  06.09.05 Issue #170

Conflict is Burnin' Down the House

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

Printer Friendly Version

SLAM! There goes the back door of the office. Well, “you-know-who” has arrived. As usual, there's no doubt in anyone's mind what mood Sour Suzy's walking in with today. Clear the way, if she has to look at you you're likely to turn to stone. Forget the fact that she's trotted in 15 minutes late … again.

Just pretend nothing is wrong even though that jolt registered a 7.3 on the Richter Scale, and patients in the waiting room were startled out of their seats. Look the other way so you don't notice the tension that has just rolled through the practice like a thick fog that won't lift until closing time.

Disgruntled whispers, disgusted sighs, rolling eyes, and piercing stares punctuate staff “communication” for the rest of the day. Everyone is walking on egg shells. Morale is sinking. And what does doctor have to say about it? “Oh, that's just Suzy. You know how she gets sometimes. Just let it blow over”.

HELLOOO doctor, you are the leader of your team, the captain of your ship. Don't just stand there! Do something. As much as you may dislike and try to avoid dealing with conflict, it is ripping through your practice with as much destruction as a five alarm fire. But you keep ignoring the sirens because you are terrified you will get burned, all the while practice productivity is going up in smoke. It's time to take a close look at those smoldering embers you've been long ignoring.

In the dental practice, conflict typically presents in the day-to-day routine – namely the systems. For example, the business employee constantly claims that she/he doesn't have time to complete important responsibilities such as confirming appointments or running key status reports. The doctor, busy with patients, doesn't question it because he/she can't assess whether the busyness claim is reality or a convenient excuse.

The scheduling coordinator continually blocks the day incorrectly. The doctor thinks he/she has repeatedly emphasized the importance of scheduling correctly, but the pattern of wrong appointments on the wrong days prevails. The hygienist is habitually late and generally unpleasant. These common sources of conflict are allowed to fester because they are not dealt with directly and employees are not held accountable. Consequently, hostility often becomes palpable.

The rest of the team is left to stoke the flames of discontent, pick up the slack, vent their frustrations, and pay far more attention to this week's internal crisis than to improving anything related to the patient or the practice.

Not only does conflict dramatically interfere in your ability to better your practice and your team, it is expensive. Conflict costs individual businesses hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars per year. It erodes team members' commitment to the practice and chips away at individual success and professional pride. Studies have shown that up to 30% of a typical manager's time is spent handling conflict. Multiply that by the number of employees in the practice and you start to see the financial toll conflict takes on a dental office. But that doesn't begin to account for the cost to doctor and team in terms of day-to-day stress.

A report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine noted that healthcare expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress, and numerous studies find that stress is commonly a result of conflict in the workplace. In addition, turnover is significantly higher in workplaces with ongoing or unresolved conflict. Some estimates indicate that it costs up to 150% of the employee's salary to recruit, hire, and train a replacement.

Next week, grab the fire hose, doctor; it's time to douse the flames of conflict once and for all.

If you would like more information on our Advanced Hygiene Training Programs, please email Sally at

Forward this article to a friend.

Sally McKenzie's Lecture Schedule
2005 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
July 21-24 San Diego, CA
IA of Comprehensive Aesthe 702-341-7978 Peak Performer Sally McKenzie
July 28 La Jolla, CA Southern CA Ortho. Symposium 619-656-4646 Top Issues Sally McKenzie
August 13 Topeka, KS Delta Dental Plan of Kansas 800-733-5623 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Sept. 9-11 San Francisco, CA California Dental Association* 916-443-0505 TBA Sally McKenzie
Sept. 22 El Paso, TX El Paso Dental Society 877-777-6151 TBA Sally McKenzie
Sept. 23-24 Griffin, GA Endo Magic Root Camp 877-478-9748 Top Issues Sally McKenzie
Oct. 14 Riverside, CA Riverside Implant Study Group 951-279-7847 TBA Sally McKenzie
Nov. 18-19 Griffin, GA Endo Magic Root Camp 877-478-9748 Top Issues Sally McKenzie
Dec. 1 Cincinnati, OH Cincinnati Dental Society 513-984-3443 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Dec. 9 Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis District Dental 877-777-6151 TBA Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie's Lecture Schedule

For more information, email
or call 1-877-777-6151

The McKenzie Company Newsletter Information:
To unsubscribe:
To discontinue receiving the Sally McKenzie eManagment newsletter,
click on the link at the very bottom of this page for instant removal,
To report technical problems with this newsletter or to request technical help,
please send a descriptive email to:
To request services, products or general inquires about The McKenzie Company activities
please send a descriptive email to:
If you would like to have any of your dental practice concerns answered personally by Sally McKenzie,
please send a descriptive email to her at:
Copyrights 1980-Present The McKenzie Company - All Rights Reserved.