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12.7.07 Issue #300 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Holiday Wish #1: Peace in the Practice
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It really is the most wonderful time of the year, wouldn’t you agree? After all there are millions of people in the malls and shopping centers. The list of those you absolutely must buy for is virtually limitless. And between the Christmas cookies and holiday parties, that lab coat is looking more like a sausage skin every day. Ah yes, comfort and joy.

Then there are the multiple patients who either don’t show or cancel because, well, you know, it’s the holidays and there’s just so much to get done that they don’t have time for a dental appointment. And don’t forget the team. Just when you thought there was a chance for peace on earth, or at least in your practice, the lid blows on that percolating feud between the person in charge of scheduling and the hygienists. Oh what you would give for just one silent night.

I don’t need to tell you that the holidays are stressful. And during stressful periods existing conflict among dental teams can be particularly pronounced. The sighs, the rolling eyes, the slamming doors, the piercing stares, take a heavy toll on everyone, including your patients.

The irony with staff conflict is that dental employees, for the most part, don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings. They want to just go along and get along. But when problems arise and they don’t know how to deal with them that anger and frustration often manifest in snide comments, lack of information sharing, gossip, and destructive alliances, all of which cause a multitude of other troubles. Read on. 

According to the Employee Assistance Society of North America, 65% of performance problems are the result of strained relationships between employees. Conflict is a primary contributor in at least 50% of all employee departures and in 90% of staff dismissals.

In the dental practice, conflict typically presents itself in the day-to-day routine – namely the systems. For example, the business employee can’t get insurance claims filed because she’s frantically trying to fill cancellations and putting patients in the wrong time slots in an effort to save a sliver of the month’s production goal. The hygienists are irritated because they’re either too busy or too slow. The assistants are plotting their revenge. The doctor, meanwhile, just wants to pretend everything is fine. This too shall pass. Oh don’t worry it’s just a phase. The patients are giving sideways glances to each other because the tension on the team is as flaming bright as Rudolf’s nose on a foggy night. But the issues are ignored until they become critical and the practice starts to see the financial impact of conflict, which, I would almost guarantee, is far bigger than your entire holiday gift budget.

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 personal success and professional pride. According to Human Resources Magazine, 25%-42% of a typical manager’s time is spent dealing with 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 expense 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.

Then there’s the issue of staff turnover. While figures vary, the cost of replacing a staff member is estimated to cost anywhere from 30% to 150% of the employee’s annual salary,  to recruit, hire, and train a replacement. Is that enough coal in your stocking to get your attention?

Next week, take 12 steps to address conflict in your practice and enjoy a bit of peace on earth and goodwill toward all this Holiday Season. 

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