A busy dental practice requires your team to work together like well-oiled machinery. Friction between the parts has the potential to slow down operations, eventually affecting both office atmosphere and productivity. That's why handling conflict between dental team members is an important part of managing a dental practice.
Use the following tips to help deal with conflicts and focus your team’s attention back where it belongs, namely on patients.
Share Your Vision
When you first onboarded your staff, you may have talked about your mission and explained where you saw the business going. Dealing with daily operations, however, could cause your employees to forget that there's a greater purpose behind cleaning workstations and prep procedures. When people lose sight of greater purpose, they may become dissatisfied, leading to conflict.
Find ways to have your staff re-engage with the practice perhaps through a company retreat. Your employees may be less likely to experience conflict if they know they are working together toward some higher purpose, and they feel they have a stake in the process.
Model Positive Engagement
Don’t get drawn into gossipy conversations, even if you're not spreading rumors yourself. The boss has a duty to remain impartial when it comes to judging the interactions of their staff, and if you are perceived as having a bias, it could trigger escalating conflict and have an adverse impact on the work environment.
Liz Ryan of Forbes puts it bluntly: "If [a] manager complains ... about your fellow employees, ...they are not trustworthy." Talking about employees who aren't there or listening to petty grievances about an employee's personality is a boundary the boss should never cross. If employees want to share that information with you, you must firmly disengage, modeling the same professionalism you want your employees to have.
Create Channels for Feedback
Every workplace has problem areas. You might be aware of some, but others could be a legitimate blind spot. That's why it's a good idea to be proactive about seeking feedback, not only from the patients who visit your office and write reviews on social media but also from the employees who are in charge of daily responsibilities.
Being receptive to feedback is one way of keeping the lines of communication between you and staff members open. A recent Forbes article points out: "Internal communication is the glue that holds an organization together and should not be treated as an afterthought. Without it, a company is just a collection of disconnected individuals each working individually at his or her own job. With it, a company is a unit with power far beyond the sum of its parts."
When you regularly ask your employees for feedback about how to run the office more smoothly — and these inquiries are genuine — you are telling your employees that you value them. You’re also encouraging them to engage together to find solutions. This kind of engagement creates synergy and minimizes conflict. It also may help you to understand which employees can be trusted to assume more responsibility while giving you potentially valuable information about daily operations.
Don't Be Afraid to Take Action
If you've done everything you can to diffuse conflicts, but they are still arising, it could well be that the source of the tension is a staff member who isn't a good fit for your office. In fact, you may be dealing with an employee who undermines other staff, is a bully, or allows jealousy to motivate their behavior.
Before taking the ultimate step of letting that person go, you should carefully document their behavior and give at least one verbal or written warning. A verbal warning may be preferable; speaking with the employee in person about office conflict can give you valuable insight into both the office dynamics and problem areas.
After speaking with them, you may wonder if the employee you identified as the problem is actually the source of the conflict. In that case, suspension may be preferable to firing them outright. You can observe office dynamics in their absence and see if things improve. You may also want to consult a business law or human resources professional to advise you about how to approach the situation.
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