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5 Tips for Curbing Conflict in Your Veterinary Practice

Updated: Feb 11

Sometimes, even the most professional individuals can find themselves in situations of conflict in the workplace. Most veterinary practice owners and managers know that circumstances will sometimes arise that will cause team members to disagree and butt heads. It’s how you deal with these scenarios that will make or break your practice’s success. To stay a step ahead of the game, here are five proven conflict management strategies that will ensure smooth sailing over even the roughest of spots.

Common Causes of Veterinary Practice Conflict

Before delving into the strategies for overcoming conflict, it can be helpful to gain a clearer understanding of why these issues arise in the first place. Veterinary teams often face conflict due to things like:

  1. Gossip amongst team members;

  2. Lack of communication;

  3. Excessive absenteeism or tardiness;

  4. Failure to work together;

  5. Uneven workload;

  6. Unclear direction;

  7. Unfair treatment by management (i.e., the boss plays favorites).

This list is not exhaustive, but it’s enough to provide some insight into why your team members might be hitting roadblocks in their working relationships. To that end, here are a few things you can try to right the ship once again:

Acknowledge that a problem exists as swiftly and effectively as possible. The more conflict is allowed to fester, the more toxic the culture of your practice will become. Nobody enjoys playing referee, but as a manager or practice owner, it’s just part of your duties. Burying your head in the sand and ignoring the tension will do nothing. Instead, address it head-on. Not only will this demonstrate your leadership skills, but it will help resolve issues much faster, which will prevent future problems.

Take time to evaluate the situation from all angles. Remember, there are two sides to every story. Don’t just assume, because Employee A says Employee B is sabotaging his or her ability to perform at work, that Employee A isn’t an equal part of the problem. When conflict arises, the best thing to do is quickly address it and take the time necessary to gather all pertinent information.

Identify the root of the problem and the goal of resolution. You can’t expect to correct a problem if you don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with. You also can’t expect to move forward without a clear vision of what you’d like to accomplish. If team members are bickering because they’re feeling unappreciated, for example, resolve to help management improve in that area so that attitudes begin to shift in the right direction.

Encourage open, honest, and multi-directional communication. Just as there are two sides to every story, there are often several different perspectives that are in play during a conflict situation. Open up the lines of communication, encouraging each individual involved to share his or her feelings while also actively listening to the feelings expressed by others. In many cases, just being heard can help begin to resolve a negative situation.

Develop an action plan and make it a priority. In most cases, simply agreeing to disagree isn’t enough to eliminate the underlying tension. The best way to resolve conflict is to develop a plan for overcoming it and then enact that plan accordingly. Once you’ve gone through the first few steps of identifying the root problem and gathering all necessary information, agreeing on a solution is the next step. Try asking each party to share their thoughts and suggestions and then use those ideas to come up with a compromise that everyone can feel good about.

These tactics should help keep your employees in line and working together harmoniously, which is critical to delivering the best possible patient care. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge when a team member is simply toxic to your practice culture and is either unable or unwilling to change. In these instances, the wisest answer may be to cut ties and move on.

The ultimate goal of any conflict management strategy is, of course, to help each individual learn the skills necessary to resolve issues on their own in a positive and productive manner. By applying the above tips, you can achieve this goal, ultimately turning your practice into a balanced, thriving and culturally-sound business operation.

For more practice management tips, tricks, and expert advice, be sure to bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh content.

Our Advice on Curbing Conflict in Your Veterinary Practice in 2024

What are the common causes of conflict in veterinary practices?

Common causes of conflict in veterinary practices include gossip amongst team members, lack of clear communication, excessive absenteeism or tardiness, failure to collaborate effectively, unevenly distributed workloads, unclear directions from management, and perceptions of unfair treatment or favoritism by supervisors. These factors can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and a breakdown in team cohesion, impacting the overall work environment and patient care quality.

Why is it important to evaluate a conflict situation from all angles?

Evaluating a conflict situation from all angles is crucial because it ensures a comprehensive understanding of the issue, acknowledging that multiple perspectives exist. This approach helps identify the root causes of the conflict rather than just addressing symptoms. By considering every viewpoint, solutions can be more effectively tailored to meet the needs of all parties involved, leading to fairer, more sustainable resolutions that enhance teamwork and productivity within the veterinary practice.

What role does open, honest, and multi-directional communication play in resolving workplace conflicts?

Open, honest, and multi-directional communication is pivotal in resolving workplace conflicts by facilitating a transparent exchange of viewpoints, concerns, and feelings among all parties involved. This type of communication fosters a culture of trust and respect, encourages mutual understanding, and enables individuals to express and address grievances constructively. It helps to uncover the root causes of conflicts, leading to practical problem-solving and collaborative resolutions that strengthen team cohesion and workplace harmony.

When might it be necessary to cut ties with a team member who is toxic to the practice culture?

It might be necessary to cut ties with a team member who is toxic to the practice culture when repeated efforts to address and correct their behavior have failed, and their presence continues to undermine team morale, productivity, and the overall work environment. If their actions negatively impact patient care, client satisfaction, or other team members' mental and emotional well-being, severing professional ties becomes essential to preserve the health and integrity of the practice.

What is the ultimate goal of implementing conflict management strategies in a veterinary practice?

Implementing conflict management strategies in a veterinary practice fosters a positive, productive work environment where team members can effectively resolve disagreements, enhance collaboration, and maintain high morale. This approach ensures that the practice can deliver the best possible care to patients while promoting a culture of respect, understanding, and professional growth among staff, ultimately contributing to the practice's success and sustainability.

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