Conflict in the workplace can decrease productivity and waste valuable time and energy that you and your staff could otherwise focus on running a smoothly operating clinic.
The burden of managing conflict falls on everyone within the office, and resolution should be a collective effort. Conflict takes on many forms, and can develop between two individual staff members, staff and physicians, or clinic members and patients.
From small disagreements to major clashes in core values, it’s imperative to mitigate them swiftly in order to preserve business relationships, maintain a good return on your staff investments, and avoid potential practice-threatening litigation.
Conflict is also a major cause of low morale, inefficient patient care, lost revenue, high turnover, and workplace inefficiencies. Because conflict touches so many critical areas of your business, not managing conflict as quickly and completely as necessary could be costing you money.
Set up a Conflict Resolution Workflow
Conflict resolution doesn’t have to be a new challenge every time around. By setting up a workflow, you can tweak and perfect it and also produce a documented process to help protect you and your practice moving forward.
Mediation starts with addressing the issue, documenting the grievance, brainstorming solutions, developing satisfactory compromises, implementing those solutions, and then following up to ensure that they’re adhered to.
Keep an Open Door Policy
Some of the most difficult conflicts to resolve are the ones you don’t know about. Make it clear to your staff and other providers in your office that they can come to you with their grievances.
As well, keep your eyes and ears open.
If you anticipate an issue arising or notice a conflict brewing, try to head it off at the pass by encouraging communication and opening yourself up to invite discussions about what might be disturbing the members of your practice.
Mediation can be challenging for all parties, but it’s often very important to have an objective voice participate in discussing the issue and bringing a resolution to the table.
Here are a few items to keep in mind when sitting down at the mediation table and working through a solution with the opposing individuals.
- Set out a specific time and date for the meeting, and stick to your designated timeline. This can help keep the issue from getting swept under the rug just to have it crop up later. It can also help focus the conversation by limiting the time available to discuss it. If necessary, set up a second meeting with clear goals taken from the first.
- Revisit the issue and set out the facts clearly at the start. This will help keep the conversation on track and define the scope of what is trying to be resolved.
- Be realistic about the outcome. Look to find a peaceful middle-ground, but don’t expect that every issue can be solved in one session. Try to meet the objectives of the meeting, but be flexible and patient in finding a resolution.
- Minimize any potential distractions. Hold the meeting after office hours or during downtime and find a quiet, neutral location to talk where others cannot eavesdrop on the conversation.
- Ask participants to try and frame their arguments positively and avoid words such as “always”, or “never” when speaking about the other party. Ask them to define their own personal goals for the meeting as well as identifying an overarching theme that everyone can agree on, such as: a positive work environment, a more balanced workload, better interoffice communication, or better patient care.
Follow up a critical step in the mediation process.
Without proper follow up, arguments on the brink of resolution can slide back to their initial starting point and flare up into an even bigger conflict. Set a meeting a reasonable amount of time in the future (just long enough to implement solutions and see their results) and review the action items and the success of their implementation since the mediation.
- Do both parties find the resolutions to be satisfactory?
- Have new issues arisen since the initial discussion?
- Are both participants putting in an equal amount of effort to resolve the original issue?
- Are there any other issues that need to be addressed at this time?
Document the results of this follow up conversation and try to leave the discussion on a positive note, identifying and verbally recounting how the mediation effort has positively affected the clinic. This can help encourage each party to see the benefits of mediation and more quickly address future conflicts.
Mediation is a learning experience for all parties involved, and takeaways that are communicated and documented can help provide staff members with the tools necessary to seek a quick and peaceful resolution during future arguments.
As we are only human, it can be difficult to avoid conflict altogether. But with an open mind, an open door, and some tools with which to assign an objective assessment to the situation and then follow up on agreed-upon resolutions, conflicts can not only mend bridges but fortify them.
Different perceptions must be taken into account and every voice must be heard and considered.
Healthcare in general is a passionate and deeply invested field of work that can in turn fuel passionate opinions. With the right tools and an appropriate plan of action, every conflict and argument can develop into a learning experience for the entire clinic.
A defined resolution process can help to bridge gaps in workflow, bring staff and providers to a new level of understanding about each other’s roles and their methods of interaction, and result in a smoother and more profitable workplace.