Everyone faces conflict, at work, at home, and in social circles. In your dental office, you have probably witnessed or been party to a conflict with team members. What you may not realize is that people confront conflict in one of five ways. By understanding these reactions, you can prepare with strategies to resolve conflict in ways that make all parties feel respected.
Five Responses to Conflict
People react to conflict in one of these five ways:
- Forcing their point – Competing by leveraging seniority, rank, or intelligence to suppress the other party will ultimately destroy a team.
- Withdrawing from the confrontation – Avoiding confrontation and refusing to disagree out loud, while silently struggling, only creates tension and does nothing to resolve the conflict.
- Smoothing the disagreement – By choosing harmony and trying to smooth over conflict with humor, the conflict is not resolved. Emotions will build and cause more tension if the issues that created the conflict are not addressed.
- Compromising to solve the conflict – Coming to an agreement that both parties agree upon can help both parties feel valued and respected, while also resolving the dispute.
- Problem-solving to determine the why and how, then addressing those issues – Facing conflicts as problems with causes and effects is a logical way to approach resolution.
Dealing with Team Conflicts
As a dentist, you’re the leader in your office environment. Conflict resolution, ultimately, falls to you. When two or more team members enter a dispute, you need to sit down with both, together, to address the situation. Enter with an open mind, impartial, as a judge, not a representative for either party.
First, you should invite one person to open the discussion by stating the issue, using a sentence that begins with the word “I.” Make sure that both parties know you are impartial, ask that no one interrupt when another person is speaking, and state that the goal is resolving the conflict. Allow the person with less seniority, or the least mature party, to the first opportunity to express his or her opinion of the dispute. The second party should be allowed to speak next.
Then, lead the discussion, clarifying the underlying cause(s) of the conflict, and get buy-n from both parties. Discuss a result that will make both parties feel respected and satisfied. Invite both parties to join you in brainstorming ways to move from point A (conflict) to point B (the resolution you all want).
As the leader and judge, you must tentatively choose a solution path. Inform both parties, and the team if appropriate, of the plan. Also, be sure that the conflicting parties understand that you plan to sit down with them again on a specific date and time to discuss the outcome of the plan.