By Roger P. Levin, DDS
Conflict among team members in an orthodontic practice sometimes causes serious problems. It can create stress, interfere with day-to-day operations, reduce job satisfaction, and even damage the practice’s relationship with parents and patients. A certain amount of friction may be inevitable, but the orthodontist should do everything possible to ensure that it does not get out of hand.
Prevent Conflict with Common Purpose
The most effective way to minimize clashes among team members is to instill a sense of common purpose. Orthodontists can accomplish this with:
- Vision—Write a vision statement of where the practice will be in 3 years, and review it frequently with staff to focus everyone on working toward it.
- Targets—Set measurable performance targets, assign team members to meet them, and brainstorm Meetings—In daily, monthly, and special team meetings, encourage cooperation and teamwork…and ask team members to reveal personal facts about themselves to promote getting to know one another.
- Off-sites—When the whole team gets away from the office together, the social dynamic changes, enabling everyone to find new ways to relate to one another…especially during meals and fun activities.
- Culture—A strong practice culture can help minimize strife. For example, a patient-centric culture filters every action through the question, “How will this affect patients and their parents?” Focusing on customer service will help team members realize that conflict affects patients and parents negatively.
Intervention: the Practice Leader’s Responsibility
If all else fails and sharp disagreements erupt, the orthodontist should intervene without delay…sitting down with the two parties, pointing out that conflict works against the practice, and insisting that they resolve the problem immediately, together.
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