Dental Practice Team Management: 7 Tips for Resolving Office Conflicts

Effective conflict resolution is an important aspect of dental practice team management. When dental staff are united as one, strong team, this can positively impact the patient experience and contribute to the practice’s growth.

When there’s conflict in the workplace, team members may feel demotivated, productivity drops, relationships deteriorate, stress rises, illness and absenteeism increase, and your dental practice might even lose some of its most valued employees.

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.

Resolving office conflict encourages constructive change in the long term with the added benefits of enhanced workplace communication, employee retention, better team performance, and more effective leadership. An open forum for discussing differences of opinion in the workplace helps team members engage in creative problem-solving and work towards more rewarding future relationships.

It’s also a great opportunity to identify new goals, strengthen interpersonal and work commitments, and open the door to different points of view and fresh perspectives.

Resolve office conflicts in your dental practice with these top tips:

1. Identify the Source of Conflict


Successful dental practice team management relies on first identifying the underlying causes of conflict. It could be interpersonal, organizational, process-related or simply down to a changing work environment and external stressors.

Surveys, focus groups, interviews, and workplace assessments can be helpful in pinpointing specific conflict triggers, as can psychometric tests such as the Myers-Briggs personality assessment.

Conflicting workplace goals and priorities can cause friction between staff. Everyone at your practice needs to be aligned around the same practice goals, and there needs to be a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities. If not, it can become a source of tension among staff. For example, if your clinical team wants to get more out of their patient base, then that needs to be clearly communicated to the front office team. The front office team can also directly contribute to driving production from existing patients. If the dentist doesn’t share that goal with the office managers, then they won’t know to prioritize it. That disconnect between teams can cause a rift and create frustration and confusion.

Sometimes a lack of technology or disjointed solutions or processes contributes to team friction. For example, if your front office is relying on paper-based patient intake forms, this can eat up valuable time due to the manual work involved with maintaining an organized filing system. This time-consuming, but important task can create stress if team members who are responsible for filing paper work aren't following the same process.

Your dental solutions should empower you and your colleagues to make your jobs easier and reduce stress levels. Investing in the right technology can decrease certain office conflicts.

Are you drowning in paper intake forms? RevenueWell Forms simplifies this essential task by digitizing all your patient forms, making it a convenient process for both you and your patients.

2. Create a Private and Safe Place to Talk

Providing a safe, supportive space where staff can engage in open and honest communication will go a long way to reaching mutually acceptable solutions.

This is part and parcel of building a resilient dental practice based on trust and shared goals!

For a space to be truly safe, you need to first negotiate parameters and reach a consensus regarding what is up for discussion and which ground rules apply. Bear in mind that group dialogue only works when participation is voluntary and facilitators are completely transparent about the session’s aims as well as management’s intentions for using the resulting information.

Watch this webinar on how to build a resilient dental practice for more tips on creating a collaborative and supportive work environment for team members.

3. Provide All Parties an Opportunity to State their Concerns

Effective dental office conflict resolution ensures that all participants, regardless of their position, are treated fairly and given an equal opportunity to speak and express their concerns. Since emotions are so often at the root of conflict, it can help to encourage people to recognize what they’re feeling–perhaps anxiety, frustration, fatigue, or disappointment.

Mutual understanding and respect are key components of problem-solving and conflict resolution for dental practice team management. This requires participants to listen actively and with empathy, reserve judgment, and try their best not to act defensively.

4. Understand the Root Source of the Conflict

The real source of conflict might be very different from the narrative surrounding it. Take time to hear both parties out and investigate further if necessary. This isn’t a debating contest, where the person with the most persuasive argument ‘wins.’ It’s about getting a detailed account of the facts, the specifics, and the context in order to arrive at an accurate, objective understanding of the issue.

Avoid judgments based on hearsay or supposition. Find out what was actually seen and heard. If it’s an ongoing issue, request specific examples of the behavior as well as the particular language and tone used.

In the case of a specific incident, ask the employees involved to describe what led up to it, who initiated it, what it entailed, and what the consequences were. Gather information from other staff members who might have witnessed the incident. Be sure to document everything thoroughly, especially if there are allegations of harassment or discrimination.

5. Find Common Ground for a Resolution or Compromise

No matter their individual grievances, one thing everyone’s bound to agree on is the need to resolve the conflict and move forward!

Finding common ground is easier once all the issues are out in the open. Engage with all parties, brainstorm possible resolutions, and invite input for managing the conflict and reaching a mutually agreeable conclusion.

Identifying the underlying motive of each party equips the mediator with the tools they need to reach an acceptable solution. Despite any rationale to the contrary, people’s actions may be driven by one or more unmet needs. Knowing what these are, allows you to approach the problem from a different angle and offers solutions to satisfy everyone involved.

There are times when a compromise is the only avenue available for reaching dental office conflict resolution. Especially so when the objectives of those involved all have equal merit, the greater good of the practice is at stake, or the importance of preserving relationships is paramount.

6. Agree on the Resolution and the Responsibilities of Everyone Involved

The goal of dental practice team management is to create harmony, and that entails reaching an agreement to resolve conflict, as well as outlining a plan of action that details specific roles and responsibilities to ensure the agreement is upheld, and to make sure it does not happen again.

When a compromise is reached and parties simply ‘agree to disagree,’ neither may be completely satisfied with the end result.

Focusing on what’s been achieved and the potential for future positive outcomes increases the chances of resolving the dispute. Get their buy-in on an acceptable solution going forward; one that they can commit to and live with.

7. Evaluate How the Conflict Resolution is Going

Conflict resolution is a dynamic process, requiring ongoing communication and assessment. Make sure you’re prepared to manage any problems that might crop up further down the line, adjust your approach, and take the appropriate steps.

One way to stop conflict before it starts is to ensure that employees are aware of the practice’s code of conduct from the outset.

The occasional reminder as to what constitutes appropriate behavior and what’s expected of them might not go amiss either. While this might sound a little overbearing, remember that when channels of communication are clear, there’s much less chance of misunderstandings and the potential for conflict to arise in the first place.

Effective Conflict Resolution Ensures Stronger Dental Practice Team Management

Effective dental office team management requires the right strategies to manage workplace conflict when it arises.

Consider one or a combination of these approaches:

  • Accommodation–endorses a specific point of view for the greater good
  • Compromise–encourages each party to make concessions in order to reach a mutually agreeable solution
  • Collaboration–represents the best possible scenario, as all parties work together to achieve an outcome that satisfies everyone’s expectations

These tactics are based on honest and transparent communication with everyone involved. When you’ve set up a meeting place that’s private and convenient, try to steer the conversation towards events and specific actions rather than generalizations. Don’t blame; rather reframe the issue to focus on how the individual parties feel. Listening is key, so allow each person to have their say. Wait till they’re finished and then rephrase their concerns and ask for clarification.

Look at the areas of agreement and disagreement, and attempt to get clarity on the remaining differences. Prioritize specific issues that still need work, and develop a plan of action to deal with these areas of conflict.

Finally, start focusing on moving beyond this conflict. Set up regular meetings to monitor if the solutions put in place are working and maintain open lines of communication. If something isn’t working, then take time to reevaluate and come up with a better solution. You’ll see the progress over time, and this will create a stronger team dynamic. A collaborative and communicative team creates a positive and supportive work environment, which can directly impact the patient experience.

Having the right solutions at your fingertips can alleviate certain workplace conflicts and increase job satisfaction. Equip your staff with technology that helps them reduce time spent on admin tasks and simplifies existing processes.

RevenueWell offers end-to-end solutions that empower dental teams to run profitable practices with less effort. Our easy-to-use tools include the Marketing Platform, electronic forms, as well as the RevenueWell Phone system with 100+ powerful features that can be customized to best suit your front desk team and daily operations. Schedule a demo today to see which solutions can work for your practice.