Visit our website at
  06.16.05 Issue #171

Douse the Fires of Discontent

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

Printer Friendly Version

Like a smoldering fire, conflict often begins with a minor spark of disgruntlement. No big deal, right? Everyone has disagreements. And so it is dismissed as inconsequential or not worth the trouble. Slowly the smoke begins to rise, but it is still much easier to disregard than address, after all if you ignore it long enough it will go away or so you think. Then one day, seemingly without warning, the blaze goes ripping through the practice, and what should have been a minor spat has turned into a firestorm of rage and discontent.

Conflict often is allowed to quietly burn in dental practices. That hushed anger beneath the surface can be sparked by any number of exchanges. It may start with frustration over the employee who consistently fails to provide necessary production reports maintaining that she/he is just too busy with other responsibilities to get to it. The doctor walks away seething, but doesn't call the staff member on it because he/she doesn't know how to challenge the claim.

Or perhaps the schedule is regularly booked incorrectly. The doctor mentions the problem in passing during a staff meeting, but doesn't take the time to explain directly to the employee why proper scheduling is so critical to the practice or provide training to ensure that the problem is resolved. The doctor quietly fumes and is stressed because production is slipping. Or maybe an employee consistently shows up late, and, after watching the office manager look the other way time and again, team members implement their own system of progressive discipline in the form of snide remarks and open hostility.

Conflict typically is rooted in system breakdowns and a general lack of communication - employees do not know who is responsible and accountable for which systems. For example, the hygienist may become frustrated with the business staff because she/he is consistently missing his/her production goals. Yet no one on the business staff has been designated as the person responsible for ensuring that the hygiene schedule is kept full.

Conflict can be minimized significantly when individual team members are given clear information, defined responsibilities, and are held accountable for specific outcomes. Employees must know what is expected of them individually and as a team. They cannot be expected to function effectively or cohesively without clear job descriptions and performance objectives. In addition, they must receive regular ongoing feedback in order to make corrections in systems and continuously improve and grow as contributing members of the team.

Take these steps to manage conflict constructively day-to-day before it burns both the doctor and staff:

  • Set aside time to address matters that are causing conflict.
  • Focus on systems and what is or is not working in the systems rather than on the people. For example, what steps does the practice need to take to ensure that the schedule is booked correctly to achieve specific production goals.
  • Address sources of day-to-day conflict during the daily huddle. For example, if the clinical team wants emergency patients placed at certain times they must tell the scheduling coordinator so that the coordinator is not picking and choosing based on what she/he thinks will work.
  • Avoid the urge to react emotionally and judge, criticize, or attack.
  • Focus on addressing the issue rather than proving who is right or wrong.
  • Focus on the desired outcome for the practice as a whole.
  • Establish clear standards for professional office behavior. Do not tolerate destructive personal attacks among team members.
  • Establish clear office policies and follow them.
  • Take time to better understand each other's personalities and how different personality types communicate.

Certainly, as long as there are people working together there will be conflict. As destructive as conflict can be, if it is managed, it can become a constructive tool in moving the practice and the team that much closer to achieving overall goals and objectives.

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

Forward this article to a friend.

The McKenzie Company Seminar
& Exhibit 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 Successes Sally McKenzie
Sept. 22 El Paso, TX El Paso Dental Society 877-777-6151 Breakdown 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
2006 Location Sponsor Information Topic Speaker
Jan. 26-28 Dallas, TX Dallas County Dental Society* 877-777-6151 TBA Sally McKenzie
Mar. 9 Vancouver, BC Pacific Dental Conference 604-736-3781 TBA Sally McKenzie
Mar. 24 West Branch, MI Northland Dental Study Club 989-345-7750 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Mar. 29 Long Island, NY Suffolk County Dental Society 312-440-2908 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Mar. 31 Las Vegas, NV Dental Town Meeting 877-777-6151 TBA Sally McKenzie
May 5 Myrtle Beach, SC South Carolina Dental Assoc. 312-440-2908 Breakdown Sally McKenzie
Oct. 14 Warsaw, Poland UNO Dental 877-777-6151 TBA Sally McKenzie
* The McKenzie Company will be exhibiting at location

The McKenzie Company

3252 Holiday Court, Suite 110

La Jolla, CA 92037

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.