In a dental practice, conflict is likely inevitable—as it is in any workplace. The key is to make sure it doesn’t derail the flow of your practice or negatively affect patients, other employees or you.
Keep in mind that conflict can sometimes yield more efficient systems or solutions to problems, and can expose inequities or practice issues. Even so, you’ll need to address it, and one of the best ways to prepare yourself is to have a conflict-resolution plan in place. Consider the following steps to include in your plan:
Determine who should help mediate the dispute. Enlist someone not directly involved to help resolve the issue. This could be you, but it doesn’t have to be. If there is an office manager or someone else you want to lend a hand, this could smooth things out. If the issue persists or escalates, though, you should get involved.
Hear all sides of the dispute. By listening to the people and issues involved, you or the person in charge can assure the participants that they’re being heard. This will give those involved the chance to vent their frustrations, and you’ll have a better sense of what the issues are.
Get to the root of the actual conflict. Sometimes, larger issues are at the source of a dispute. Focusing on the cause of the conflict—insufficient resources, lack of clarity regarding responsibilities, inefficient processes—can go a long way toward lessening the chance that the issue will persist.
Remind your employees of the Ultimate Goal. Your practice helps people in need. The people who work there must keep that goal in mind as they work. Personal friction may occur, but it doesn’t have to disrupt the practice.
Engage Participants in the Solution. Once you give the people involved in the dispute time to reflect, encourage them to find a way to address the root causes of the problem together.
Keep and open ear. Make it clear that conflicts are best dealt with openly and quickly. If you show that you’re willing to address concerns and come to meaningful solutions, your workers will be better able to acknowledge and deal with conflict, and your practice will run more smoothly.
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