Even the word “conflict” can summon up a dread and cause our emotions to knot up a feeling of worry and fear of us having to manage what can be a tricky situation in our practices.
It might be that some of your team have conflicting opinions on who is doing what role, often having different perceptions of whether someone is doing a good, or not so good job in their role. It might be conflicting views on a patients care between clinicians.
Lets face it, there will always be conflicts, it makes us human, we are forever in a changing landscape within our practices, and externally. What we need to try and do is change our mindset, or chances are the conflict, unless managed, will cause either yourself, or other team members to walk away. After all, who needs that negativity in our lives.
So many times I have seen people try to hide from conflict and in my opinion it just festers. Create a culture in your practice where your team understand how approaching conflict positively and openly can make everyone’s life and emotions much calmer.
I spend a lot of time training practice managers and owners about managing conflicts within their teams, and as well-equipped as I can make them, they can't do it alone. It is a team problem, a team effort and up to everyone to take responsibility in finding resolutions to the conflict. Recognise it, discuss it, sort it, and move on.
As managers we are more likely to be involved than maybe others in our teams, but it doesn’t mean we are the constant referee, it may be better for others to be the person who navigates and mediates certain conflicts. Don’t post yourself as the one who sorts it all out!
Here are some simple tips on managing conflicts
1. Encourage everyone to be calm. Learning to remove our emotions in a situation is so important. Find a time when everyone has had the opportunity to breathe and reflect on an incident, before navigating the conflict.
2. Listen to everyone’s perspectives and worries/concerns.
3. Find the common ground. There will be some, even if its to agree that the common goal is feeling happier in the workplace or going home less stressed. Find it, agree on it and then reverse engineer to find the source of the conflict. We must remember not to place blame on people. We look at systems that have caused conflict and work together on that.
4. Accept that different people approach conflict differently. If someone is clearly upset (sometimes tears) and another person isn’t, it doesn’t mean its affected one more than the other. (See point 1, in an ideal world, but don’t disregard reactions and emotions just remain objective)
5. Explore solutions and agree that all parties take accountability and understand that conflicts are often not sorted after one conversation, approach it as an exploration to find a better way forward.
6. Communicate clearly. Reflection, Reassurance, Resolution. If you don’t understand what someone has said, question it and ask for clarification. Repeat their answers to show understanding and then discuss how we may look at resolving the conflict.
7. If a resolution is found, ensure you follow it up afterwards. Don’t pop it in a box. It was outed, so let it remain outed and be a reminder how we can work together in this positive way for other conflicts that occur.
Talk to your team about self-management and how they can be a positive conductor when managing these situations. Learning how to manage conflict positively and productively, certainly makes for a happier team, but we sometimes have to provide them with the skills to do this.
At school when we were taught subjects, the most valuable lessons are where we have been taught how to learn.