Keeping a lid on it

Conflict is an inevitable issue which arises within any dental clinic, may it be between staff or with patients.

Dealing with it and understanding the root cause is key for managers. It is important to realise that early signs of conflict can be identified and there are strategies for resolution that do work.

Disputes usually occur where there is a lack of communication, dissatisfaction with management style, weak leadership and lack of openness.

Managers need to look out for early signs of frustration. They appear in a number of ways and include:

• Negative body language

• Disagreements, regardless of the issue

• Withholding bad news

• Surprises

• Strong public statements

• Desire for power

• Increasing lack of respect

• Lack of clear goals.

If the problem isn’t nipped in the bud, it can soon increase to the next level and then takes priority over other important activities within the company. It can create a general division within a practice and lead to irresponsible and sometimes even harmful behaviour. Facing conflict helps deal with problems quickly and lessens the chances of the matter rising above the surface.

As managers, we need to find the best possible solution for any issue. Not only do we need to make it a win-win situation, but we must also understand the needs of others and make it clear what will be tolerated under our leadership and what will not. The problem must also be addressed with objective analysis of what can be changed and improved to ensure that a similar issue does not arise in the future.

Conflict can be constructive when the solution to the problem is successfully found. After all, the whole process involves people resolving issues which are important to them, and this can create much-needed and valued communication between the team and managers. People need to have the opportunity to release their emotions and anxiety, and theyare more likely to feel valued afterwards.

To deal with conflict head on, managers can hold one-on-one meetings with staff and carry out regular checks on how the workforce is doing with individual and team-related goals. Being honest with your staff is always appreciated, and being open about your concerns may help to avoid conflict later on.

Showing your team you are happy for them to be involved and asking for suggestions and ideas creates a feeling of importance and will make the all-round running of the practice more effective and smooth. Developing a sound management system is therefore a high priority for creating a happy and focused dental team.

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