Team conflicts are unavoidable in any business or practice. It occurs because of differences in opinions, method of work, and performance expectations. Whatever the nature of the conflict is, one must attend to it immediately before it can hinder work or become a stress factor. After a certain point of time, conflict can not be reversed because of festering malice and ill-intent.
Like most fights, workplace conflict will get worse over time and it will affect the staff’s performance and the clinic’s environment. It is imperative to facilitate a conversation with the involved parties and resolve the issue as soon as possible, so that it does not affect work or the patients.
No two conflicts are of the same nature or involve the same relationship and dynamics between the staff. Hence, conflict management techniques should be tailored to the situation, and the people involved. Conflict management requires several skills, like active listening and an understanding of several nonverbal cues. Many techniques can resolve conflict in workplaces.
1. Find a facilitator
Most times, the conflict will escalate if it is not resolved immediately. People involved in the fight might not objectively assess the situation or conclude it satisfactorily by themselves because of personal bias. It is important to identify an unbiased facilitator that can aid in resolving the conflict with no future damage to the well-being of the people involved or the reputation of the clinic.
There are many qualities a conflict facilitator requires, and hence it becomes important to train clinic management in conflict management techniques. Active listening, problem-solving, and an understanding of nonverbal cues are at the top of the list, with other skills being patience, level-headedness, and empathy.
There will be lots of arguments and exaggerations. The job of the facilitator will be to listen without passing judgment. An impartial view of the situation is the key to resolving the issue. The facilitator can talk to one person at a time, to gain perspective and understand one aspect of the situation at a time. And then schedule a meeting with everyone to work on a solution.
2. Eliminate the blame game
In most instances surrounding conflict resolution, there is an element of “he said”, “she said”. In such a situation, it becomes impossible to resolve the conflict since everyone is pointing fingers. The facilitator should reiterate that there is no wrong or right. Conflict doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, it can do a great deal to strengthen relationships and build trust in clinic management.
It’s a great opportunity to outline values and expectations without judgment and work towards a goal to make the clinic a better environment. The management style employed during a time of conflict will establish trust and foster a better relationship between employees.
It is important for the facilitator to remain calm and be objective about the conflict and the people involved in it. Do not dismiss anyone’s emotions or views. The priority is to resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of all involved parties.
3. Establish communication
Communication is key. Those involved in the conflict should be able to talk about the situation and what led up to it. Communications include active listening as much as it includes talking. Both aspects of communication are tremendously important.
Understandably, it is difficult to create an environment in which employees can talk and sort out their differences. However, communication will highlight key aspects of the situation and how it can best be handled. It is best to have a conflict resolution conversation in person or over a phone call so that the facilitator can pick up on cues through tone and emotion.
Active listening can aid in the identification of the cause of conflict. The facilitator should ask questions to clarify the issue and the point of dispute. Often, with conflicts at the workplace, the issue that starts dissent is rather small. In fact, when that minor issue is not addressed, the dissent festers. Other smaller issues after that point keep adding to the dissent until a fight breaks out.
Once the conflict is assessed and, and all viewpoints are discussed, a solution can be worked on. All involved parties in the conflict should feel heard and understood, eliminating any misunderstandings or misgivings.
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4. Propose a solution
The problem can be discrepancies in tasks assigned, in communication between staff or departments, unsatisfactory performance, or unrealistic expectations. It is up to the facilitator to build confidence in the involved parties that they can solve the problem with everyone’s contribution.
Once the facilitator understands the situation and the relationship of the parties involved, they can work on a solution. Have the people involved in the conflict detail how they would go about solving the problem. Employing active listening and having everyone contribute to a solution will make them feel heard and they would be more open to compromise.
A conflict can only be resolved if all involved parties are ready to communicate their issues and come to an understanding. Proposing a solution would be a good strategy and would definitely save time. However, having the employees contribute to the solution will increase the chances of its adoption.
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Implementation of the solution is as important as its conception. The dynamics of the staff will not resume back to what it was before the conflict. Some relationships will need time to mend.
Establish a timeline to check in with the participants. Schedule a weekly or bi-monthly call to see how the involved parties are doing and if there are any benefits of implementing the solution.
Highlight a clear line of communication among the people involved in the conflict and the rest of the staff. There is no guarantee that the proposed solution will be a perfect fit. Don’t hesitate to tweak the plan according to convenience. The solution is meant to help the staff; it is not meant to be another task that has to be checked off.
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