Conflict among your staff members affects everyone – not just the people directly involved.
Unresolved conflict creates tension, negativity, and frustration, and results in inefficiency as feuding team members go out of their way to avoid dealing with each other.
It can also affect your relationships with your patients, creating a toxic – even hostile – environment that people can sense the minute they walk through the door or sit down in the chair.
Ultimately, conflict among your staff can contribute to turnover as employees decide the paycheck isn’t worth the stress – resulting in additional headaches for you, as you have to spend the additional time and resources to fill positions left open by fleeing staff.
As unpleasant as it might feel to confront and address conflict directly, you simply can’t ignore it and hope it will resolve by itself. You have to get involved. You have to face it head on, working with the people involved to lay out the problem and work together on solutions so everyone can move on.
In simple terms, don’t fix blame. Fix the problem. Otherwise, the unresolved conflict can do a lot of damage to your practice.
Here are three ways staff conflict can damage your practice, and suggestions about how to keep from getting out of control.
1. Unresolved conflict creates a toxic workplace.
When conflict is unaddressed and left to fester, your staff dreads coming to work every day. After all, who wants to spend eight hours in a tense environment full of gossip, backbiting, and complaining? When team members spend more time complaining about each other than they do performing their jobs, the rest of the team suffers. Low morale is a great reason to look for another, more nurturing work environment.Encourage your team to work together toward a common goal – supporting the practice and helping it move forward. Instead of listening to gossip and complaints from one team member about another, encourage them to talk TO the person they’re in conflict with, instead of ABOUT them to people who can’t help solve the problem.
A morning huddle every day can help align everyone on common goals, and help bring any brewing conflict to light before it can escalate to a major problem. Create a comfortable environment where staff feels safe bringing up any concerns they’re experiencing, and encourage everyone to help find solutions so the issue gets resolved.
2. Unresolved conflict contributes to inefficiency.
If team members are focused on conflict, they’re not focused on doing their job well. They can’t even see how the unresolved conflict is hurting their own productivity, much less the productivity of other team members who are left picking up the slack. Frustration grows, the problem expands, and inefficiency becomes normalized.To head this inefficiency off at the pass, deal with any conflict you see as soon as you possibly can. Make it clear that you and your practice will not tolerate gossip, backbiting, or complaining about someone without speaking to them directly. Encourage your employees to politely disengage from any conversation that violates that policy, and simply walk away when they hear it.
3. Unresolved conflict damages the patient experience.
It’s safe to assume that your staff wants to provide patients with good quality care. But if they’re dealing with unresolved conflict all day, that can be difficult. Again, if team members focus on their frustration or anger with another team member, they are not focusing on the patient. Even though conflicting staff might think they’re keeping their frustration under wraps, unfortunately, your patients can feel the tension.In all honesty, there are plenty of dental offices in your community. If patients feel uncomfortable, even your most loyal patients will abandon your practice when they’ve had enough. And when your patient retention numbers start falling, so will team morale and job satisfaction. Some team members might react to that falling morale by looking for work in a happier, more functional practice.
Make it a practice to remind your team how critical it is to provide exceptional patient experiences – especially when you’re helping team members resolve conflict and solve problems. Exceptional patient experience is what keeps your practice thriving – and leads to the kind of job satisfaction that creates loyal, happy staff.
Resolving conflict quickly and efficiently is critical to the health and wellbeing of your staff, your practice, and your patients. Learn to address it early, and recognize that dealing with it effectively can enhance morale, build team trust, and contribute to the kind of exceptional patient experience you want your practice to deliver.
If you’d like some help about the best ways to identify and resolve conflict on your team, we’re here to help.
We’re P&S Coaching. For over 25 years, we have helped practices just like yours to not only achieve – but to exceed – their goals. We offer customizable solutions and systems designed to foster strategic growth and team accountability for the long-term success of your practice.
Contact us Now to discover smarter ways to deal with team conflict and run your dental practice.