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Addressing Conflict in the Workplace

Addressing Conflict in the Workplace

UPDATED 04/25/2023

Conflict is not always negative; if team members know how to resolve their differences, conflict can lead to a stronger team for your practice and professional growth for your employees.

Let’s look at how to address conflict. This means addressing it in the workplace, when to deal with it, overcoming it at work, and helping your employees grow professionally from conflict.

What Causes Conflict?

Addressing conflict in the workplace requires understanding that these issues have many causes. Poor communication is a common reason for conflict. Indeed, a disorganized information system may lead to many of these mishaps leading to frustration among employees. 

A practice without a document tracking system is a chaotic one that is more likely to experience conflict. Employees who only know bits

and pieces of information may also be sources of conflict. Fortunately, HR for Health has a robust messaging feature within the software that can allow you to message individuals, and teams. or the entire practice. This serves as a central communication point for any HR-related correspondence. 

Personality and Values Clashes

Individuals are bound to have different personalities and values, and these values can conflict. Addressing conflict in the workplace means understanding the with whom you work. 

Differences in attitudes and behaviors can create conflict, but these should not define your practice or work environment. Conflict in a medical practice occurs when employees and practice managers don’t respect differences in personalities and values

Scarce Resources and Overwhelming Workloads

When people feel stressed, conflict can occur. It would be best to remember this when addressing and overcoming conflict within your dental, optometry, or other medical practice. A frequent stressful situation is workloads that seem unmanageable or when people feel pushed too hard to perform. 

In medical practices, especially during the pandemic, practice employees may have to work longer hours with fewer breaks and time to rest. Resources are often scarce; competition for rest time and assets can lead to conflict. HR for Health software can help you manage employee time and resources. Furthermore, all of the above work items require extensive documentation, and it can be easy to lose paperwork. As such, you may want to consider using a service like our electronic cloud storage.

Lack of Role Description and Responsibilities

Employees at your practice may not be aware of their job descriptions and roles. People may not know about their responsibilities from vague job descriptions. They may have conflicts with employees who have similar lack of understanding about their job responsibilities. They can miss training opportunities, putting their skills, professionalism, career track, your practice, and patient lives in jeopardy. 

In these instances, it may be preferable to have professionally-designed job descriptions that are fully comprehensive and can be tailored to your needs. We can help you there since we have industry-specific job descriptions ready for use. 

Serious Conflict Sources

Don’t ignore serious conflicts that seem to be grounded only in miscommunication. Conflicts resulting from poor management, inadequate training at your practice, and lack of professional opportunities can make your practice environment difficult for employees and hazardous for your patients. 

Don’t ignore conflict-creating situations that can jeopardize employee safety, such as unfair or discriminatory treatment, unhealthy competition and harassment. Make sure that your employee handbook is updated to reflect appropriate laws and company values about how harassment will be investigated and eliminated. Having written statements in your employee handbook can show that you take these issues seriously and create expectations of appropriate behavior. HR for Health can help you craft an employee handbook that addresses these issues. 


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Signs of Escalating Conflict

Signs of escalating conflict are often gradual and easy to miss. They can be as small as body language or as major as a screaming match. As an employer of a dental, optometry, or other medical practice, missing signs of impending conflict can hurt patient care. 

Avoidance Behaviors

When an employee avoids you or others, this problem can lead to unsafe patient care. Colleagues who can’t or won’t work together may have problems acting as a team for their patients.

Decrease in Productivity

A decreased productivity could indicate that employees aren’t effectively working together to deliver patient care. Employee productivity can take a downward turn with avoidance behaviors, lack of communication, and other obstacles to teamwork.

Quality Issues

Along with decreased productivity, the quality of care may suffer. When people conflict, they can’t always pay attention and focus on the tasks in front of them.

Dysfunctional Meetings

Meetings that lack engaged dialogue, silent treatment of team members, lack of clear agenda, and people not participating in meetings are red flags pointing to potential conflict within your practice.

Anxiety and Stress

Employees showing anxiety and stress are more likely to conflict with others. Some sources of stress and anxiety are deadlines, interpersonal relationships, and employee management issues.

Resolving Conflict at Work

Learn to embrace conflict resolution in your practice to strengthen your team. Talking with those employees with conflict problems is an essential step in resolving problems. 

Conflict management means allowing all sides to state their opinion and suggest solutions for problems. This requires good communication and conflict-resolution skills. 

When trying to resolve a conflict, keep the following in mind:

• Encourage positive exchanges about information and issues. Active listening is an essential part of these conversations.

• Don’t interrupt people when they are speaking. 

• Ask questions to clarify things you don’t understand.

Seek to find common ground and address the root cause of the conflict. Each side should attempt to understand the other and use appropriate listening skills. 

You should document any conflict that escalates. This ensures you have a written record of all potential problems in case you need to change the staffing.

Communicating Clear Expectations

Communicating clear expectations for employees and overcoming conflict are essential to the resolution process. The employee handbook should state behavior, respect, and conduct expectations to your other employees. It should also lay out how opposing viewpoints can be worked out professionally. 

Employees should get a handbook on their first day of hire. When employees question you about expectations, ask them to refer to your practice handbook policies. Take into account HR for Health software to help you manage your handbook electronically, so you can easily update this for your practice.

When Workplace Conflict Becomes Dangerous

Conflict shouldn’t escalate to a situation where you, employees, or patients are endangered. Racism, bullying about sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and gender is unacceptable. Any form of harassment and bullying requires strong and swift action. Refer to your handbook policy to ensure you correctly follow complaint and investigation procedures.

How HR for Health Can Help

HR for Health acts as a human resources extension for your practice. Our software allows you to record quick observations, via our “notes” feature, regarding employees and potential conflicts. It can also help the practice address interpersonal conflict. Your notes are not visible to employees but are easy to retrieve, making reference and evaluation a breeze. HR for Health lets you easily handle the disciplinary process should conflict escalate. For more information or to see a demo of the magic in action, contact HR for Health now.

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