Dental staff not getting along? Here's what it's doing to your practice

If your dental staff is not getting along, it's not wise to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. Act like a boss and take care of the problem, before the staff conflicts start derailing your practice.

Mar 24th, 2015
Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2015 03 Dental Staff Conflict 1

You know that everyone on your team is fed up with Mary, your scheduling coordinator. Truth be told, you’re not exactly happy with her either. Not only does she stroll in late most days, she has managed to get the schedule completely out of whack. You’ve overheard team members gossiping about Mary and complaining about her inability to put a schedule together, and you can feel the tension in the air when she walks into the practice, late for the morning huddle again.

Yes, you’ve noticed the conflict, but you’ve done nothing to fix it. Mary has been with your practice for years and is practically family. You’d hate to hurt her feelings, so instead of sitting down with her to discuss the situation and create a solution, you ignore the problem and hope it magically goes away. Mary will start coming to work on time and scheduling to meet production goals, you hope, and your team will work in harmony once again.

I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but that just isn’t going to happen. If you’re experiencing this type of conflict in your practice, you cannot look the other way. Unless something is done to resolve the problem, the negative feelings will only continue to fester. Frustration from what initially may have been a misunderstanding or a minor annoyance will manifest into passive aggressive behavior. The gossip, the snide remarks, and the eye rolling will only get worse, and the damage this negativity will bring to your team and your practice may be irreparable.

The fact is, team conflict costs you hours of lost production and thousands of dollars in lost revenue each year. Instead of working as a team toward common goals, staff members spend time gossiping, complaining, and arguing. They’re unhappy with their work environment and don’t feel a connection to the practice, and that means they might look for a new job. I don’t have to tell you how much time and money it takes to hire a new employee, but if you don’t get involved with staff drama, there’s a good chance you’ll be placing Help Wanted ads very soon.

It’s important to remember that conflict and negativity within your staff doesn’t just affect your team. It affects your patients too. Trust me, if you can feel the tension between team members, so can your patients. Not only that, if your employees are unhappy, it’s going to impact the way they interact with patients. Customer service will suffer, as will the quality of the dentistry provided by you and your team. When that happens, you lose patients. No one wants to entrust their care to a practice that gives off a negative vibe. Don’t believe me? If you’re experiencing conflict in your practice, look at your patient retention numbers. I’ll bet they’re down.

As much as you may hate the thought of stepping in, you have to handle team conflict before it gets out of control.Your team members look to you for guidance. They may be afraid to deal with the matter head on, so they say nothing to the person who’s causing their frustration and instead turn to passive aggressive behavior that only serves to hurt the team and practice. When you see this happening, you have to take responsibility and lead your team to a solution.

ALSO BY SALLY MCKENZIE: 10 steps to solid fees for your dental practice
Why can’t you pull the trigger on that dental practice purchase?

The truth is, you’re always going to have conflict in your practice. Team members come to their roles with different personalitiesand different ways of doing things, and those differences may lead to misunderstandings and conflict. But conflict doesn’t have to be crippling. If you take the time to deal with every situation, conflicts can be resolved quickly, before they damage team morale and practice revenues.

It probably doesn’t seem like it, especially if you’re dealing with a situation at your practice right now, but conflict can actually lead to positive change. That’s right. If Susan the hygienist is frustrated with Mary the scheduling coordinator because she isn’t scheduling to meet daily production goals, this knowledge gives you a chance to sit down with Mary and come up with a solution. Maybe she simply needs more guidance from you about how she should be scheduling everyone’s day. Once Mary has a better grasp of her role, she’ll start scheduling Susan properly, and that means an increase in production and your bottom line.

Conflict often starts with a lack of direction and poor communication. Providing guidance and improving communication will reduce conflict in your practice, and calmly dealing with problems will keep them from festering and blowing up. If you need help, consider taking McKenzie’s Management’s Conflict Competency Training. This assessment instrument deals with conflict behaviors in the workplace and can help you and your team members improve the way you respond.

Once you know how to conquer conflict, you’ll notice a huge change in your practice and stress level. So let’s stop the drama and create the practice you’ve always wanted – with happy team members, loyal patients, and a growing bottom line.

Sally McKenzie is CEO of McKenzie Management, a nationwide dental management, practice development, and educational consulting firm. Working on-site with dentists since 1980, McKenzie Management provides knowledge, guidance, and personalized solutions that have propelled thousands of general and specialty practices to realize their potential. She can be reached at 877-777-6151 or sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

More in Staffing