Dos and don'ts for practice leadership: Resolve staff conflicts skillfully

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No one enjoys getting in the middle of a conflict, but when one threatens to disrupt the practice, the practice leader must take quick and decisive action to negotiate a workable solution. By establishing general guidelines for conflict resolution, the doctor will find it easier to overcome reluctance to get involved and staff members will know what to expect -- as well as what will be expected of them.

Do

Intervene immediately and impartially. When team members clash and tempers flare, the first priority is to quickly shift focus from what caused the problem to what will solve it. Insist that finger-pointing be replaced by collaboration between the conflicting parties. Make it clear that the only acceptable result of the conflict resolution meeting (held in private, after hours) will be improvement, not punishment. The doctor will not take sides, and there will be no winner.

Don

Don't dictate the solution. Sometimes a third party can see a viable solution much more easily than the parties in conflict. Even so, an imposed solution never works as well as one negotiated by those who experienced the problem. When they create and therefore own the solution, they will both strive to make it work.

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