Conflict Resolution Strategies That Help Keep Your Dental Practice Culture Healthy and Engaging

May 31, 2023

Dental practice managers juggle a lot of responsibility. The one “ball in the air” that requires consistent movement is resolving team conflict and keeping the practice culture healthy and engaging.

In a perfect world, conflict might be an occasional reality. But most dental practices are a distance from perfect, and the human element is always in the mix.

Where humans work, interact and share space, there’s bound to be conflict. Worse, is pretending conflict doesn’t exist or otherwise sweeping it under the rug.

“Ignoring problems won’t make them go away; in fact, it could make the situation worse. Learning the essentials of conflict resolution is one of the most important priorities of dental practice team management.” 1

So, let’s explore a few of those proven, practical conflict resolution procedures you can apply as a dental practice manager.

  • Resolve team conflict anytime it arises and for whatever reason.
  • Create a dental practice culture that has fewer, if any, conflicts and is engaging for your patients.

Productive conflict resolution strategies that protect your dental practice culture

Expect transparent communication

The issue might not be lack of communication — it could be the type of communication that occurs around a staff conflict. Frankly, “talk” happens but it’s essential to understand that not all “talk” is productive or respectful of your desired culture dynamics.

All in all, communication is the foundation of conflict resolution. Yet without transparency, honesty or openness, your attempts at talking it out will often fail.

The key? Uncover any hidden agendas that are potentially festering beneath the surface of the conflict at hand.

  • Give your team permission to be open and transparent with their concerns, feelings, perspectives, etc.
  • Guide team conversations during meetings and morning huddles in a proactive (not reactive) direction.
  • Promote listening, empathy and respect so team member emotions and concerns are validated ahead of a solution.

Get ahead of the problem before it worsens

Ignored or unsupervised conflict erodes team relationships and your practice culture. Prompt investigation or necessary mediation is essential.

What’s minor today could become major tomorrow. Timeliness is vital for safeguarding disruptions and preserving team productivity.

Invite collaboration

Team members pulling together have less energy to push against each other. A collaborative dental practice environment gives everyone a viewpoint and a voice.

Consider that a siloed staff is more likely to experience unhealthy conflict more than a staff that collaborates around tasks and workflows.

Confirm that everyone knows what’s expected of them (personally)

Conflict can arise when someone sees it as their role to do (or micromanage) another’s task or tasks. Sure, collaboration allows for cross-trained input but everyone must first know what’s expected of them individually so they can stay in their lane.

  • Clarify roles routinely and confirm that team members are evaluated primarily on the energy they give to their responsibilities.
  • Set clear performance standards and eliminate any ambiguity.

Feeling unfairly evaluated or lacking role clarity is fertile ground for conflict. Highlight expectations so all the “parts” work together.

Prioritize culture

The quality and vibe of your dental practice work environment makes all the difference. Strive for an environment that:

  • Reduces conflict.
  • Boosts team morale.

Team camaraderie is intimately aligned with team performance. Keep that in mind as you prioritize culture development.

Strategize conflict resolution tactics

Disputes or disagreements cannot be allowed to get out of hand. Like a small brush fire, they could grow into a raging inferno of tension if not resolved early.

  • Practice the go-to principle by encouraging team members to go face-to-face with the one they’re in conflict with (rather than behind-the-back gossip).
  • Provide advocacy when necessary to help mediate between team members and arrive at productive resolutions to the conflict at hand.
  • Promote compromise around conflict so there’s a give-and-take for resolution.

Set the tone in your leadership

Speed of leader — speed of the team. That idea has much to do with how you help guide conflict resolution.

Leading by example reveals that you understand the potential for conflict as well as dealing with it respectfully. Your approach when dealing with conflict speaks volumes about how you expect it to be handled in the practice.

Train for success

Conflict is challenging to navigate. And many are not practically equipped to do so successfully.

Education and training protect your culture while also guiding individual character development.

Train in the following:

  • Communication techniques.
  • Listening skills.
  • Conflict management.

No doubt, your role as dental practice manager has many responsibilities. Among the essentials is providing leadership that protects the practice culture.

Resolving conflict is a top priority. Communication, collaboration and the prompt resolution of tension among your team impacts your care standards and the overall patient experience.

Your dental practice or DSO data provides a useful perspective on team dynamics. Well-kept and timely notes on staff members and their unique place on your team could help improve your culture and resolve conflict.

The following resources can help you get the most value out of your data while making dental team improvements:

Where to Focus as You Work to Improve Your Dental Team Communication

5 Ways to Keep Your Team Improving

Proven data analytics tools are a useful asset for enhancing your dental practice culture and deepening team relationships

The Jarvis Analytics platform helps ensure that you’re tracking the important metrics and staying on track with your goals as your dental practice grows and expands.

Experience Jarvis in action. Request a demo today!


Contact us for more information about data tracking that leads to standout patient care and organizational profitability.


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