4 reasons you can't ignore staff conflict

By Sally McKenzie, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

April 13, 2015 -- As far as you're concerned, everything is fine. Sure, you've noticed a bit of tension between some of your team members, but that's typical staff drama that every practice deals with from time to time. And yes, you've even seen a few eye rolls and overheard a snide remark or two, but you don't see any reason to get involved. These are adults we're talking about after all. Whatever the problem is, you're sure they'll work it out.

Sally McKenzie
Sally McKenzie, CEO of McKenzie Management.

The problem is, they likely won't. Unless something is done to address the situation, the negative feelings will just continue to fester. Frustration from what may have started out as a misunderstanding or slight annoyance will manifest into passive-aggressive behavior, bringing nothing but negativity to your practice.

As practice CEO, you have to step in and help team members find a resolution. As much as you don't want to deal with what you may consider to be staff drama, you can't continue to ignore it. Ignoring it will only make it worse, which means unhappy employees who are more concerned about gossiping than helping you meet practice goals.

Still don't want to get involved? Here are four ways staff conflict is hurting your practice that may change your mind.

You'll start losing patients

Trust me, if you notice tension between your team members, so will your patients. Imagine what will happen if a patient overhears the hygienist gossiping about another team member. That patient will become very uncomfortable and start wondering if it's time to look for a new dental home.

Not only that, your customer service will suffer. If team members are focused on petty arguments or are unhappy with their work environment, it will show in the way they interact with patients. It will also affect the quality of care they provide, and when that starts happening I guarantee you even once loyal patients won't hesitate to go to the practice down the street.

The fact is, patients want to visit a friendly office that puts their oral healthcare needs first, not one that's consumed by conflict. If your office doesn't provide the friendly, upbeat environment most patients are looking for, they'll find one that does.

Your team members will start looking for new jobs

No one wants to work in an environment filled with conflict and negativity. Even team members who aren't directly involved in the conflict will become uncomfortable with the situation and might start dreading the thought of coming to work each day. And when employees are unhappy, they look for new jobs.

If you continue to ignore staff conflict, don't be surprised when employees start quitting. Then you're left spending time and money trying to find their replacements.

“Employees simply aren't as productive when they're focused on conflict, and the low team morale leaves them feeling unmotivated and disconnected.”

Staff conflict costs you money

When team members are focused on gossiping, complaining or even arguing, they're certainly not focused on helping your practice meet its goals. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but unresolved conflict is costing you thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year. Employees simply aren't as productive when they're focused on conflict, and the low team morale leaves them feeling unmotivated and disconnected to the practice. So instead of team members helping you create a thriving, successful dental practice, they're killing your bottom line.

You lose the opportunity for positive change

I know it may not seem like it, but team conflict can actually be a positive for your practice -- if you address it right away. For example, you might find out your hygienist is frustrated because your scheduling coordinator isn't scheduling practice producers to meet production goals. This could simply be because of a miscommunication or because your scheduling coordinator hasn't had the proper training.

Now that you know, you can sit down with your scheduling coordinator and find a way to address the problem -- quashing the conflict before it gets out of hand and boosting your practice production numbers in the process.

Also, your team members look to you for guidance. When you notice conflict, you have to step in and help them find a solution to the problem. If you don't, it could cause irreparable damage to your practice.

I know you didn't get into dentistry to address team conflict, and you might not be sure where to start. But trust me, when you work as a team to resolve problems before they boil over, you'll have a happier, more productive team that is focused on providing the best care possible and helping your practice reach true success and profitability.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, which offers educational and management products available at www.mckenziemgmt.com. Contact her directly at 877-777-6151 or at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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