4 tips for office mangers for handling conflict in the dental practice

November 18, 2015

Even the strongest teams experience conflict from time to time, but it doesn’t have to invoke stress and dread when it rears its ugly head. With a little preparation, you can be ready for it and quite possibly, have it lead to a stronger and more productive team!

Even the strongest teams experience conflict from time to time, but it doesn’t have to invoke stress and dread when it rears its ugly head. With a little preparation, you can be ready for it and quite possibly, have it lead to a stronger and more productive team!

The following four tips can help you stay prepared for potential conflict.

Have a system for conflict resolution.

As a manager, it is necessary to be approachable and foster an environment of communication so that when issues do arise, team members know there are resources available to them. Oftentimes conflict is internalized, which leads to resentment and frustration until eventually it bubbles over! This can be prevented by creating an environment in which team members can speak with management confidentially about their concerns and can expect proper follow through.

Related reading: 3 ways staff conflict is costing you patients

In my early years as an office manager, I can’t tell you how many times I sat across the desk from a team member as they are giving their two-week’s notice. When asked what lead to this decision, they purge a year’s worth of grievances, most of which could have easily been resolved if they had only shared their struggles as they were experiencing them.

 

Be ready to listen.

You must be able to listen patiently and objectively if you truly hope to gain insight into the conflict. Listening will lead to an understanding of the individual’s perspective of the problem.

Listening in itself implies value for the concerned party which is often enough to put you onto a path of resolution, while also improving your rapport with the team member.

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Awareness can go a long way.

An individual’s perspective is their reality. It is not effective to argue with someone about the way they feel. Rarely will you ever convince someone that his or her feelings are “wrong.”

What you can do is effectively raise the individual’s awareness of how their behavior is being perceived by other team members. Perhaps they didn’t realize they were being perceived as “bossy” or “lazy” or “gossipy.” Maybe they thought they were a “leader” or “efficient” or “friendly.” Becoming aware of this perspective of one’s behavior can lead to self-examination and raised awareness for those types of behaviors.

Related reading: 5 easy steps to help your team resolve conflict in the dental practice

Trust, trust, trust.

The most valuable resource in your practice!  If your patients trust you, they believe you when you inform them of their oral condition. If they trust you, they will accept your recommendation for treatment because they believe you are genuinely looking out for their best interest.

This applies to your team as well. If your team trusts you, they will feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns because they know you will respect their thoughts and help them to find a resolution.

At the end of the day, we have to accept that conflict is a normal part of life- not just in the dental office. We can’t view conflict as a sign of failure or brokenness. Accept it, just as you accept all of the other wonderful attributes in your practice. Successful leadership is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to effectively handle it!

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