When we talk about managing our practices more efficiently, we think about negotiating with insurance companies, proper coding, practice financials, revenue per visit, E&M code distributions and a bunch of other objective things.
I find it interesting, however, that we put so much focus on maximizing revenue and minimizing cost, but ignore a topic that far consumes our time. And arguably is more important to the “health” of a pediatric practice than the things we consider “best-practices.”
The topic I’m referring to is “people.” Specifically employee and parent/patient interactions.
Poorly managing how people interact with one another can have far-reaching consequences and be far more devastating than say, a bad payor contract. But how much time do we spend on honing interaction with people of our practices?
Medical practices revolve around people. We all know that we spend more time with co-workers than we do with our families. And due to the nature of our business we are engaging with people hundreds of times a day.
Most of these interactions go without notice, but many result in conflict. And the ones that result in a conflict (all it takes is just one) carry the potential to rip through the fabric of your practice.
LET’S TALK ABOUT A CONFLICT FREE WORKPLACE
The unhealthy tension in a workplace is disruptive and highly counterproductive. Unresolved conflict ruins a company culture. And a weak company culture is like a bad cough. You can’t hide it.
Consequently, addressing tension in the workplace is just as important if you want your practice environment to be a collaborative, mission-driven, high performing practice.
HERE IS WHY THIS MATTERS TO YOU AND YOUR PRACTICE
Happy employees enhance the company’s culture. Content, conflict free employees make for a better workplace, as well as create a pleasant experience for parents/patients visiting the practice.
All this translates to patient/parent satisfaction.
TIME TO EXAMINE
Now, think about how your practice employee treat unruly parents? Does you or staff become defensive or perhaps condescending? Do you unintentionally patronize them using tone, language or body language?
How about coworkers or your practice partners? During conflicts, do you push back as hard or harder as they push you? Are you passive aggressive? Do you have contempt for them? Are there harbored resentments, unaddressed conflicts, unsettled disputes?
THE FIRST STEP
Now, disagreements, arguments, tension, miscommunications, hurt feelings, etc. are unavoidable. The only way to eliminate those kinds of issues is to live by yourself (and even then you have to deal with yourself). We will always have issues with parents, co-workers, partners, and vendors. It’s just part of working with people.
But the key to a conflict-free workplace lies in how each of us reacts to the tension.
Our behavior during or after the conflict will ultimately determine if the issue perpetuates or is resolved.
Think about someone you don’t like. It could be a co-worker or even a relative. Now think about how your behavior is affecting the relationship. Is your behavior making things better or worse?
THE SECOND STEP
When things get emotional and, conversations go from casual to critical, the worst of us usually comes out. Pushing back starts us down a bad path that is often hard to recover from.
We know that being defensive, condescending -or my favorite, sarcastic- doesn’t lead to a path of resolution. But these three things do set us up on the right path:
Respect, Candor & Kindness
Sounds simple. Too simple in fact. But what is the alternative?
A wise person once said, “a gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flair.” Therefore, the best way to dismantle anger, frustration, disorderly, disruptive or unruly people, is by employing respect, candor and kindness.
I’m not suggesting this is easy. Some people get on our nerves. You may even feel the urge to provide too much candor. Other situations are unfair and responding with respect and kindness is difficult. And the truth is some don’t deserve your respect.
But even so, fighting fire with fire doesn’t make things better. But fighting fire with water gives us a chance to resolve.
So the next time things start to get heated with a parent or even a coworker remember, that how we approach a conflict will largely determine the outcome.