Dental practices, like any business, experience some level of drama among staff. The way you handle that drama will have a significant impact on the culture, or tone, of the practice. Leaders who engage their staff and encourage open communications are often able to reduce staff conflict by noticing the warning signs of underlying tension and then addressing it openly and immediately. On the other hand, leaders who distance themselves from their teams may find their practices more vulnerable to drama and dysfunction. Office culture can be highly influenced by negative behavior and attitudes that continue to be tolerated, so correcting these, or removing employees who refuse to comply, is very important to a functional team-based workplace.
So what are the most common causes of drama in a dental practice? One major cause of drama is change. And that can be any kind of change, including a shift in staffing, hours, responsibilities, procedures and protocols, or even a change that’s occurring in someone’s personal life.
Another is unfulfilled or unmet expectations. Employees who aren’t challenged by their work or who feel unappreciated can cause tension in the practice without even knowing it. An effective way of resolving – and preventing – this potential source of conflict is to communicate with your team frequently, honestly and with full transparency in both written and verbal communications.
The most effective way to keep your dental practice moving forward is to continually assess how things are going and to implement systems that improve what’s already in place. Strong leadership can overcome resistance to change. Failing to manage the change process can doom new initiatives right from the start.
Other dramas can be caused by differences in how your staff communicates with each other and with patients. Again, your staff will take their cues from you. They will notice whether you take time to patiently explain procedures and answer questions. While you don’t have to be a skillful presenter, the ability to talk to everyone in an open, honest and comfortable manner will set the example for everyone to follow. The goal of any communication – no matter if it’s with staff, patients, colleagues or others – is to have everyone feeling good about things at the end of the conversation.
One final area of potential drama is performance management, especially when it comes to giving and receiving feedback. Letting someone know when they’re falling below expectations is never an easy conversation to have, yet as the leader of the team, it’s up to you to manage those difficult conversations in a way that makes the outcome positive. Sometimes, before having these types of conversations, it can be helpful to examine your own tendencies. For instance, before talking with someone about his/her lack of initiative, take an honest look at yourself and see where your own initiative lies. This can help you be more understanding and empathetic, two traits that can help you conduct difficult conversations in a firm, yet sensitive, manner.