How to Deal with Staff Conflict
Most dentists simply don’t know how to deal with staff conflict. Instead of taking steps to resolve any problems that come up (and they will come up), they turn the other way and convince themselves team members will work out differences on their own.
Unfortunately, that isn’t what happens. Instead, what might have started out as a small annoyance turns into a much larger problem. The eye rolling, gossiping and passive aggressive behavior takes over the practice, hurting your production and patient retention numbers. Team morale continues to take a hit, as does your bottom line.
If ignored, staff conflict can really damage your practice, causing you to lose patients, team members and money. I know you didn’t become a dentist to deal with these types of human resource issues, but it’s an important part of your job as the practice CEO. Remember, your team members look to you for guidance, and that guidance is key to resolving conflict before it gets out of control.
While conflict is inevitable, if you use it to create positive change, it can actually benefit your practice. The key is knowing how to handle it. Here are a few tips.
1. Don’t let your emotions take over. Trust me, this will only make the situation worse. Instead, be strategic. Remember your goal is to resolve the problem so everyone can move on, not place blame. Take the employees involved aside and talk with them about the problem. Work together to find a solution that benefits your team members as well as your practice.
2. Stay upbeat. Conflict creates a negative vibe in your practice. This not only hurts team morale, it also effects your patients – and might even send them looking for a new dental home. That’s why it’s important for both you and your team members to remain positive as you address the situation.
3. Create clear policies. If you don’t already have them, I recommend you create policies that clearly outline standards for professional behavior in your practice. Include these policies in the employee manual and make sure every team member reads and signs off on them.
4. Hold daily huddles. This is a great way to avoid conflict in your practice. During these meetings, team members can discuss any problems they’re having before they become bigger issues. Daily huddles also give team members the opportunity to talk about what happened the day before, what’s on the schedule for today and what they can expect tomorrow. This helps ensure everyone stays on the same page so there’s no confusion – or conflict.
5. Put an end to gossip. Petty gossip and snide remarks fuel conflict and serve as a distraction. I guarantee you if team members are spending time gossiping, they’re not focusing on providing exceptional customer service or working toward production goals. To eliminate gossip, I suggest you tell team members to only talk about co-workers when they’re in the same room. If other team members try to gossip, they should know to change the subject or simply walk away.
6. Improve practice communication. The better the communication is in your office, the better chance you have of reducing conflict. Holding monthly meetings will help you improve that communication. Team members should be prepared to give updates on their systems. Spend time talking about each system and come up with ways to make improvements together. Then, task an employee with pursuing some of the strategies discussed during the meeting. This gets everyone involved with strengthening the practice.
7. Realize conflict is part of practice ownership. I know most dentists prefer to avoid conflict at all costs, but that just isn’t possible. Even if you take steps to prevent it, conflict will come up. But that’s ok. Look at conflict as an opportunity to grow your practice and make positive changes. Address problems right away rather than ignoring them as long as you can. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Team members will be happier and more productive and patients will be more likely to stay loyal.
Staff conflict doesn’t have to damage your practice, and I’m here to help make sure it doesn’t. Feel free to contact me if you need more guidance. I’m happy to help.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
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