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December 8, 2016
September 14, 2017

Dealing with Staff Conflict? Top Tips to Prevent and Alleviate Conflict in Your Practice

Monica Dixon Perry
Conflict: Competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons). Merriam-Webster.com

We are faced with many conflicting events, professionally and personally, throughout life. When conflict arises amongst your team, making sure they are resolved sooner than later is imperative.

My goal is to prevent conflicts from arising within a practice - here are some easy techniques to incorporate into your practice. This is a great time of year to start fresh if your practice has a chronic problem with staff conflict.

  1. Set expectations. During the initial interviewing or on-boarding phase, establish and articulate that employees will be treated as professionals and expected to conduct themselves as such. Make it clear from the onset that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.

  2. Promote a team environment. Although management structure and organization charts are recommended, it is equally important to create a culture within the practice that cultivates appreciation and empathy for all. I recommend cross-familiarization. As a part of on-boarding or phase training, every new hire will be scheduled one full shift in each department so that they can become familiar with the responsibilities and challenges of that department. When you allow team members to walk in the shoes of other team members, they are more receptive and empathetic to what their co- team members go through and experience day in and day out. I find this to be one of the most successful efforts to bring a team together if there is a divide. Although recommended for new hires, you can plan for all employees go through cross-familiarization regardless of their length of employment.

  3. Empower Employees to Resolve Conflict on Their Own. If conflict does arise, despite your best efforts, let employees know you are not a babysitter. Stress to them that if conflict between employees has gotten to the point it is negatively effecting the practice environment, they will be expected to work it out or they may no longer be able to work at your practice. Even if it means treating them to lunch so that they can work out their differences, do so. But let them know they are not to come back to the practice until their issues have been resolved. If two adults cannot come to an agreement to put their differences aside or agree to disagree in the interest of the practice, they may have to seek other employment.

Whether you are dealing with new employees or those already employed by you, setting the tone and expectations is imperative. It is important that your team knows what is expected of them and that you clearly set and enforce boundaries that will not compromised.  Let them know that while they do not have to be the best of friends, they are expected to work together as harmoniously as possible.

Interested in learning more? Register for our Principles of Veterinary Practice Management seminar or check out our extensive On-Site Consultation service where we empower you to take your practice to the next level.

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