Conflict - Control this Workplace Reality Before It Controls You
It is said that only two things in life are certain - death and taxes. I would have to add one more to that list: conflict. Wherever there are at least two people, there is potential for conflict. However, if managed effectively, conflict can be harnessed to help a dental team address system shortfalls. It can help the team to successfully share ideas and give and take feedback constructively, and it can enable the team to identify strengths and weaknesses.
But it’s that “managed effectively” part that tends to trip teams up again and again. Too often the nasty “playground-type” behaviors take over and tense situations deteriorate into all-out battles.
Consider the situation of Danielle and Elaine. Elaine has been the office manager in Dr. Steve’s practice for five years. Elaine indicated that since the practice has grown significantly, the office may need to consider hiring some additional help for the business area down the road. Dr. Steve didn’t waste any time, and proceeded to offer the job to a friend’s daughter. Elaine had no input, and, frankly, she feels like Danielle was simply dumped on her. Dr. Steve thought it would be good for Danielle because he believes that Elaine would be a positive influence on her.
Elaine doesn’t care to be a “positive influence” on anyone. She has a job to do. She takes pride in her work. She is focused on accomplishing a specific set of goals and tasks each day, and now to be saddled with “do-little-or-nothing-Danielle” just because she suggested in passing that the office might soon consider additional help for the front is an insult to everything she’s done for the practice. Now she has someone working next to her every day that barely speaks, takes forever to take action, and has to have things explained to her multiple times. I suspect you can surmise that Elaine is less than thrilled with the new staffing arrangement.
Rest assured this is no day at the amusement park for Danielle either. She sees Elaine as being extremely critical of everything. If she doesn’t do things exactly the way Elaine wants them done, Danielle will hear about it. If Elaine would just leave her alone, let her figure out a few things on her own, she would be fine. If Elaine could stop constantly talking and directing and spelling out every single little detail, so that she could just work in peace, things would be much less stressful. When Danielle accepted the job offer, she thought she would be working much more closely with Dr. Steve, but instead she’s stuck with the evil Elaine. She has some good ideas about how they might do things a little differently, but she learned very quickly that Elaine is not at all interested in someone else’s idea of a better way.
The stress grows daily between Danielle and Elaine. A few months into the new staffing arrangement, patients are picking up on the tension between the two. The rolling eyes and the sighs of discontent are all too obvious. A few patients have mentioned it to Dr. Steve. He’s watched things deteriorate and is regretting his decision to bring on Danielle, but she is not a bad employee and is really trying. Dr. Steve cannot understand why Elaine and Danielle mix like oil and water.
Certainly, this situation has many factors, not the least of which is differing personalities otherwise referred to as temperament types. As Dr. Nancy Haller explains in detail in the McKenzie Management Educational DVD Team Bonding & Building, there are a multitude of different temperaments in every dental practice. It’s understanding them, specifically the strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles of each, that is critical to not just reining in conflict, but effectively using it to grow the practice.
The fact is that just because different people have different approaches to work does not mean one is right and the other is wrong. Rather, if you learn to appreciate the benefits of each other's styles, you can learn to work together more effectively.
As in the case with Elaine and Danielle, neither one understands the other, so they rush to judgment and assign negative labels to one another. In my book How Personality Types Affect Practice Success, dental teams can learn to effectively understand each other’s interpersonal styles, work habits, communication styles, and most importantly, begin to develop a process for managing conflict effectively in the practice.
Next week - how do you determine temperament type and put “personality conflicts” to work in your office?
Want more of me? Click here to visit my blog, The Lighter Side, for more Dental Practice Management info.
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