Diagnosis and Treatment for Human Conflict in Your Practice

Managing conflict properly can be one of the biggest drivers of change for your practice.
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Given the different personalities and roles of people who work at your veterinary practice, conflict is inevitable. This could start as a simple argument between your office and practice manager. Then, the disagreement might escalate far enough that a client begins to notice. They may even mention a change in how these employees are treating them. You might not lose their business, but you will lose some of their trust and harm your reputation.

Credit: Thinkstock Disagreements can provide opportunities for employee development.

Credit: Thinkstock Disagreements can provide opportunities for employee development.

The good news is, disagreements like this can provide opportunities for employee development. The danger is that if ignored, conflict can spread like a disease. Unresolved conflict can drain morale, cut productivity, build communication barriers and hasten employee turnover. If not managed quickly and effectively, conflict will harm internal relationships with your team as well as affect communication and external relationships with your clients. Ultimately, conflict will damage your practice.

Conflict generally falls into two categories:

  • Interpersonal conflicts: A struggle between at least two people
  • Work-related conflicts: When someone might not be meeting expectations

It takes a proactive person to address areas of conflict. Here are some tips on managing conflict openly and up front.

Identify the Problem

First, be aware of conflict. Often, it comes down to communication. Invite open dialogue to build trust within the practice. To understand and prevent conflict, you also have to understand where it starts. Ask yourself, are you effectively communicating expectations to your staff?

Eliminate Emotion

Conflict can stir emotion. People with strong personalities generally can address issues, but they also can be too blunt or even cruel. A more passive person might avoid addressing issues altogether, which can increase problems later. It’s important to find a balance among personalities. Urge everyone involved to avoid getting emotional and to step back from an issue before addressing it.

Write It Out

Sit down and write out a game plan to follow when conflict arises. Work out your approach to ensure it leads to a discussion. I recommend reading the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. She gives a great framework to take all personality types through productive conflict resolution. 

Conflict comes with challenges. It takes a willing person to step up and address it. If you don’t address conflict, you’ll miss an opportunity to improve a person’s behavior. Over time, managing conflict can be one of the biggest drivers of change for your practice.

What’s Next?

In May we’ll discuss how giving and receiving feedback is vital to the growth of your staff and practice.

Kerry Jones is a consultant for PeopleFirst from Zoetis. He works with veterinarians, equine business owners and cattle producers to meet their human resources, training, development and leadership needs. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital and business management solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex agricultural businesses. For more ways to help develop your employees and veterinary clinic, contact Kerry or visit GrowPeopleFirst.com.