How to Avoid and Solve Conflicts in the Workplace

Workplace conflicts are inevitable. A group of people with diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds, experiences, opinions, and beliefs, aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye. And that’s a good thing!

As the practice leader, it’s your responsibility to maintain a cohesive work environment. Left unresolved, even minor disagreements between employees can hurt staff productivity, engagement, and morale. Developing effective conflict resolution skills is essential to building a desirable workplace culture and thus, a successful business.

Since its easier to prevent fires than it is to extinguish them, here are several tips and techniques managers can use to avoid conflicts in the workplace:

1. Define acceptable behavior and lead by example.

Every member of your staff should know what types of behaviors will and won’t be tolerated, ideally from their first day on the job. And be ready to take action if an employee crosses the line. Remember: it only takes one bad egg to ruin the bunch. Clearly defined job descriptions and chain of command as well as encouraging collaboration and professional development will help to prevent conflicts. Additionally, you should set the right example. You can do this by:

  • Being honest, reliable, and direct in your communication with staff and patients.
  • Not participating in office politics or drama.
  • Checking in with employees regularly to show that you care about them as people.
  • Never publicly criticize or reprimand employees.
  • Displaying a professional demeanor while also showing interest in your team’s overall well-being
  • Showing that you value other people’s input and respect unique points of view.

2. Be proactive and tackle conflicts head-on.

Conflicts rarely resolve themselves. By actively seeking out possible tension in the office and proactively intervening, you’ll not only minimize the severity of conflicts but even prevent some from ever arising. Encourage employees to work out disagreements with coworkers while they’re still small and make sure they know they can come to you with any challenges that are negatively affecting their work.

3. Champion positivity and respect.

It’s amazing the impact one person’s cheerful disposition can have. Your positivity will rub off on your staff, keeping aggressions and squabbles at bay. To build and maintain positive relationships with your employees, ask for their cooperation instead of barking commands, thank them when they take initiative or go above and beyond, and acknowledge their good work. When they make mistakes, miss deadlines, or get into arguments, meet with them in private, explain what they did wrong and what they can/should do differently in the future. If you find yourself lecturing a staff member more than you’re praising him/her, then it’s time to make some personnel changes.

4. Get to know your team.

Taking the time to get to know your employees—their likes and dislikes, their strengthens and weakness—will help you identify personality clashes that can spark conflict. Also, be on the lookout for cliques (one of the most common contributors to a toxic work environment). Keep your ear to the ground. While you shouldn’t contribute to the office chatter, you should have a general idea of what employees are whispering about.

5. Communicate often and carefully.

Most often, conflicts stem from a lack of information, poor information, misinformation, or no information. Communicating information to your staff clearly, accurately, and in a timely manner is guaranteed to reduce the number and severity of conflicts in the practice. Be particularly mindful of your words and tone when communicating with employees via text or email—what may seem like a perfectly innocent emoji or turn of phrase to you may be interpreted very differently by the person/people on the other end. It’s much easier to offend people when they can’t see your body language and you can’t see their reactions.

6. Embrace conflicts as learning opportunities.

Hidden within every conflict is the potential for growth and development. Differing opinions can often lead to innovation and even bring teams closer together. Having to resolve a workplace dispute with poise and diplomacy is good training for an employee looking to move into a managerial role one day.

Now that you know what you can do to try to prevent conflicts, let’s discuss how to effectively resolve the ones that do inevitably pop up.

1. Take immediate action to identify the cause of the conflict.

The root of a problem is the key to solving it. But to get to the root, you need the individuals involved to sit down and engage in a constructive conversation with the goal of finding common ground. Find a safe and private place to meet (i.e., somewhere they won’t be overheard by patients and/or noisy colleagues) then give each party equal time to air out their thoughts, feelings, and concerns regarding the issue at hand. Take a positive but assertive approach to guide the discussion and set ground rules if necessary. Encourage employees to avoid making personal attacks and playing the “blame game.”

2. Listen actively and make sure both sides feel heard.

Let each party speak without interruption. Afterward, summarize and repeat back to them what you heard in your own words. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions that encourage the parties to articulate their thoughts in an open and honest manner, then try to read between the lines. Validating their feelings can also help deescalate tensions. It’s best to go into these discussions with an open mind. Don’t pick a side or make a final verdict until you’re confident you understand the full story. Also, be sure to take notes and save them in case you need to refer back to them at some point.

3. Agree on the best solution and the role each party plays in its execution.

You need to have a common objective, which is resolving the issue and ensuring it doesn’t resurface. After clarifying the source of conflict and talking to both parties, it’s time to brainstorm possible solutions. Once one has been decided on, outline the responsibilities each party has in resolving the conflict. The involved parties may never be friends, but as long as they can treat each other with respect, they can maintain a viable working relationship.

4. Monitor the situation and consider preventative strategies for the future.

Continue to keep an eye on the issue to assess if the solution is working and both parties are following through on what they agreed to. Decide what your steps will be if the issue resurfaces as well as what processes you could institute to avoid this type of conflict in the future. Reflecting on how you handled the situation and what you learned from it, will help you hone your conflict management skills.

Consult helps practice owners mitigate risk, navigate complex issues, and manage their teams more effectively through comprehensive HR support.

About the Author

Dawn Bauer is a Senior Recruiter who has been with Consult YHN since 2003. Previously, she spent 15 years working in banking and accounting, including 2 years in Consult YHN’s billing department. When she’s not at work, you can find Dawn either on the beach, in a shoe store, or at a concert.

Beyond the Resume: Finding the Right Candidate for Your Practice

There is more to recruiting than combing through a stack of resumes. Anyone can look good on paper. There are countless websites and resources devoted to helping job seekers paint their best selves on paper. It’s also easy to embellish or, even, lie on a resume.

Consult YHN’s recruiting team prides itself on being expeditious yet thorough when filling vacant positions in our practices. Our screening process begins with reviewing a candidate’s resume to consider his/her education, skills, and professional background.

However, it’s all about looking beyond the resume to discover the person behind it. This is the only way to gauge if a candidate will be a long-term asset to your business. Too many hiring managers overlook exceptional candidates simply because they don’t check off every box on their “must-have” list or fit their idea of “the perfect candidate.” One thing I’ve learned over the past 15 years of recruiting for Consult is that the best person for the job is not always the person you’d expect.

Below are six tactics we recommend to our Associates to help them identify the “right fit” for their practices.

1. Keep an open mind, especially when hiring for non-clinical roles.

You’re casting a very narrow net and potentially missing out on great candidates if you’re only willing to consider people with experience working in an audiology practice or the medical field. Over the years, I’ve placed numerous candidates in our practices with no prior industry experience who have developed into rock-star employees. For front office positions, I’ve had great success with candidates with sales and/or retail experience (more on that later).

There are five main questions you should answer before extending an offer—this is what matters the most:

  • Can the candidate do the job?
  • Is the candidate motivated to do the job?
  • Is the candidate interested in learning new skills?
  • Is the candidate coachable?
  • Is the candidate a good culture fit?

2. Hire for personality over competency.

If you’re a busy practice looking to fill a position quickly, it’s understandable that you’d want a candidate who can hit the ground running. But there are drawbacks to only interviewing based on skillset. Skills can be developed— however, traits, attributes, and attitudes that often make a candidate successful cannot be taught—they either have them or they don’t. Studies show that most new hires fail NOT because of technical competence (skills) but because of other factors relating to emotional intelligence (EQ).

EQ is that hard-to-describe, special something in a person that affects how they make decisions and navigate complex situations. When vetting a candidate, be sure to look at the following traits which are predictors for high levels of EQ:
  • Ability to learn and adapt to change
  • Response to stressful situations and constructive criticism
  • Teamwork and social skills
  • Integrity, honesty, and empathy
  • Determination and drive for success
  • Accountability/ownership of responsibilities
In the long run, practices are better off taking the time to properly onboard and train employees. Consult YHN’s weekly teletrainings and Employee Development Program (EDP) can ensure every member of your team has the skills needed to be effective in their roles.

3. Ask behavioral questions in your interviews.

This is the best way to get a feel for a candidate’s EQ. During interviews, ask candidates a question relating to conflict resolution. For example, “Tell me about a time that you had a disagreement with a co-worker (or customer) and how you resolved it?”

Then, consider the following:

  • Did they know what they did wrong?
  • Did they control their emotions/anger?
  • Did they really understand the other side?
  • Why did they seek to resolve the conflict? Did they engage for the right reasons?
  • How did they solve the issue? Were they mindful of the outcome or social cost?

When interviewing candidates with a sales/retail background, my ears perk up if they mention going out on the floor and approaching customers to help them with their purchases and/or upsell them on products (thus producing more sales for the store). I also make a note if they mention staying late, working weekends and holidays, or coming in when coworkers call out. What this says to me is that this person has a strong work ethic, is driven to succeed, knows how to be a team player, and can be flexible.

4. Ask more than just questions.

Incorporating role-playing exercises in your interview process will give you a better idea of how a candidate will perform in the role. If you’re hiring someone to answer phones, have him/her answer a mock phone call during the interview. Or, pretend to be a difficult patient in a common scenario and pay close attention to how well the candidate fares under the pressure.

5. Try to remain objective and elicit feedback from others.

There are dozens of unconscious biases that affect our judgment every day. We’re genetically programmed to like people who are like us and fear those who are different or unfamiliar. If a candidate reminds you of an employee you’ve had a positive or negative experience with previously, there’s a good chance it’s going to color your opinion of that person.

The easiest way to prevent biases from clouding your hiring decisions is to: A) be mindful of them, B) seek out other people’s opinions, and C) follow a uniform process in how you assess and interview candidates.

One of the benefits of working with Consult Recruiting is that we provide feedback for every candidate we screen. We also work with practices to develop core competency models and interview and assessment questions, all of which can help ensure your hiring process is fair and that every candidate is held to the same standards.

6. Pay attention to the details and focus on the facts.

Many job seekers are going to say whatever they think employers want to hear in interviews. Employers also tend to favor the most charismatic and well-spoken candidates. That’s why it’s important to try to read between the lines and look for concrete evidence wherever you can.

A few examples:

  • Take note of how long they worked for their past employers. Do they have a pattern of bouncing from job to job quickly or committing to jobs for a long time? Also, is there any overlap? Did they ever juggle two jobs or an internship/externship and a part-time job?
  • Ask for examples of specific achievements. How exactly did they engineer those achievements? Do they have any numbers to back up their claims?
  • Pay attention to the questions they ask. Are they insightful? Do they suggest the candidate is enthusiastic about the role? Did the candidate clearly research the industry and/or practice?
  • Read their body language. You can learn a lot about a candidate’s personality and level of interest in the opportunity from their gestures, posture, facial expressions, and eye contact.

Your employees are your most valuable asset. Behind every successful practice is a high-performing team of engaged and motivated individuals. That’s why it’s critical to make the right hiring decisions. Sometimes that means thinking outside the box and choosing a candidate who has the attitude and personality to positively influence your company’s culture over the most skilled and experienced candidate.   

There are a lot of diamonds in the rough—you just need the right lens and a little bit of polish to find them.

Find the right candidate for your practice!

About the Author

Dawn Bauer is a Senior Recruiter who has been with Consult YHN since 2003. Previously, she spent 15 years working in banking and accounting, including 2 years in Consult YHN’s billing department. When she’s not at work, you can find Dawn either on the beach, in a shoe store, or at a concert.

5 Tips for Onboarding New Employees

Building a high-functioning, patient-friendly, and revenue-generating business begins with building a great team. And, as important as it is to recruit the best and brightest for positions in your practice, that’s only part of the process.

All of the hard work and time spent finding the perfect candidate could be wasted if you don’t put the same amount of time and effort into properly onboarding and training them.

In fact, your onboarding process can be one of the most critical factors in ensuring recently hired talent become happy and productive workers. Research has shown that 50 percent of all hourly workers leave new jobs in the first four months while 50 percent of senior-level new hires fail within 18 months.

How employers handle the first few days and months in a new employee’s experience is crucial to ensuring high retention.

So here are a few ways that you can help new hires be successful from the start

  • 1. Make sure they have all the tools and programs they need.

    Having new hires arrive to an empty or nonexistent work station is a terrible first impression to make. Set up their computer, email, and phone ahead of time, and stock their desk with the essential office supplies. In addition, make sure new employees have access to any programs, software, or electronic files necessary for them to hit the ground running.

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  • 2. Develop a plan and daily schedule for, at least, their first week.

    This will help the training process go smoother for everyone. In that schedule, be sure to pencil in a one-on-one meeting before or at the end of the week. Not only does this make new employees feel valued, but it gives you, as the owner, a sense of how they felt about their first week on the job. Providing realistic and clear expectations from the start keeps the line of communication open and gives the employee a better understanding of what’s expected of them. They really need that “approachability factor” to be a positive one.

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  • 3. Give them a warm welcome.

    If they haven’t had a tour of the office already, now is the time to do so. Make sure they’ve been properly introduced to everyone in the office—a few quick minutes can go a long way in easing their nerves and helping them get a better feel for the company culture and workflow. Scheduling an office meeting and/or lunch their first week is another good idea. Some companies will even greet new colleagues by leaving a plant or small gift on their desk.

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  • 4. Have them shadow a seasoned employee.

    This person should be someone who can show them, step by step, the daily tasks they will be responsible for and be able to exercise a great deal of patience (newbies are bound to ask a lot of questions and make at least a few mistakes). Documented SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) will help the trainer. Otherwise, encourage the new hires to take notes along the way. After a day or so of shadowing, have them switch places and the new employee start the work.

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  • 5. Continue to foster their development.

    Training shouldn’t end after an employee’s first week, especially not if you’re hoping to have them eventually take on greater responsibilities. Remember: the more productive the employee, the more profitable the business. And, the happier a staff member is, the more inclined she’ll be to refer her friends and family members to the practice as patients, or even for new positions as they become available.

Documented procedures, equipment, training, introduction to staff, and on-going support will help to ensure that a new employees are able to thrive in their new role.

If you don’t already have a formal onboarding process in place, let our experienced recruiters help.
Along with your Account Manager and the Consult YHN Training Department, we form a team that will provide on-going support and training for every member of your staff so that you can build the best and most successful team for your business.

 

Source: Onboarding New Employees: Maximizing Success

About the Author

Dawn Bauer is a Senior Recruiter who has been with Consult YHN for 15 years. Previously, she spent 15 years working in banking and accounting, including 2 years in Consult YHN’s billing department. When she’s not at work, you can find Dawn either on the beach, in a shoe store, or at a concert.