I’m looking for some help in how to let my team know what I expect of them and how I’d like them to participate in reducing stress in the workplace.

Wow, you have stress in the workplace? Welcome to the real world!

No matter how many employers a person has over their career, it’s inevitable he/she will have conflict; it’s human nature. Managing conflict in such a way that it creates an alliance, rather than an obstacle, is the result of successful management and people techniques.

At times, the education and experience of the worker and manager are different. Take a dental office, for example. The new employee may have had to “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and has endured many obstacles in their personal and professional lives. This may have given them much experience in the school of hard knocks and they may have witnessed different management styles along the way; even though the employee may have no formal education after high school. On the other hand, a dentist who owns their own practice may not have pursued any formal business or people management training, and may have never learned the art of diplomacy. This connection with a new employee and dentist may result in frustration, anxiety, and stress.

Building a great relationship with people on both sides is key to good management and ever more important in today’s changing times. A sluggish economy has forced layoffs and other cutbacks in businesses of all sizes, resulting in high stress, low morale, and concerns about job security. People have fewer options in terms of walking away and keeping a job has more to do with balancing technical and interpersonal skills. During the late 1990’s, dentistry was experiencing wide spread growth and prosperity. In comparison, it’s more difficult to sustain growth and profit today.

When a small business such as a dental office relies on outstanding people performance, management and people skills go a long way towards weathering the storm. One must avoid loosing ones temper, being defensive and controlling emotions in general in order to be constructive in dealing with workplace conflict and performance.

A dentist who by default has become a manager of people must be able to get as much from his or her employee’s as possible; but no employee should be a doormat. Realistic expectations of job performance and behavior must be clarified up front. For example, an agreement to “go the extra mile” when a patient calls with an immediate concern and must be seen right away should be discussed. As a result, it is then understood that occasionally, the office must stay open and workers may have to stay late to tend to the needy patient. Agreed, it should not be the normal operating event.

Keeping the practice’s big picture in mind is vital, too. Dentists as managers must share with the team the vision of the office and have it become a component of day-to-day activities.

Flexibility with events and embracing change is important. Good employees, for example, will try to handle all they can and resolve those things that are causing patient service problems during the course of a busy day. Staying calm, thinking things through, and being fair will most often help everyone come to a sensible solution.

In answer to your original question, here are some down-to-earth approaches that dentists as managers can impart to their employees that will help resolve conflict and stress in the workplace. Perhaps this is a “cut-out” that can be the agenda topic for the next team meeting.

  1. Understand what the dentist wants.
    1. Develop a knack for reading the dentist’s mind; pay attention to feedback and address any concerns immediately.
  2. Keep the dentist in the loop
    1. They don’t like surprises and embarrassment. When things are going well, a short message or conversation, would suffice. When a problem arises, don’t hide it; explain and offer solutions.
  3. Don’t waste his/her time.
    1. Write down what you need, be ready to answer questions, then leave if the reply isn’t appropriately forthcoming. Follow up with a reminder memo, if necessary at a later date.
  4. Be a rock.
    1. Show up early, meet deadlines and volunteer for work when you have free time.
  5. Don’t take criticism personally.
    1. Keep an open mind, control your emotions and always stand up for yourself, politely, but firmly.
  6. Don’t play games.
    1. Never criticize or gossip about a co-worker, and mind your own business.
  7. Know his/her quirks and accommodate them.
    1. Does he/she prefer notes, formal memos, or straight up communication – face-to-face?
  8. Pitch ideas.
    1. Make sure they’re reasoned, solution-oriented and don’t add to the workload of others while somehow skipping yours.

Consider these successful management techniques as tools of the business. Work them into your practice and proactively ward off stress and conflict in your practice.