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You've noticed that things seems to be a little tense in the office lately but you're not sure why. As you search for the source of the strain, consider the following:
Lack of clarity. Have practice vision and values been openly shared and discussed? Are team members clear about their respective roles and responsibilities? Have goals and objectives been set — and does everyone on the team know what they are? Clarity allows a team to come together to work “on the business” instead of just “in the business.”
Scope creep. “Creep” is what happens when more and more responsibilities get added to an individual’s workload without considering the individual's capacity to handle the increase. It's also what happens when one team member gives — or takes — responsibilities to or from another, sometimes without permission. Regardless of how or why creep happens, it can cause tension. When strain in the office is evident, look for ways that expanding, transferred or filched job responsibilities might be contributing to the stress. Once creep is identified, reverse it or adjust job responsibilities based on the reality of staff member strengths and weaknesses.
Unspoken conflict. For many people, it's easier to ignore conflict and hope it will go away than it is to tackle it head on. But conflict can not be adequately addressed if it is not identified and if staff members are not willing or able to tackle it. In some cases, staff may need permission from the team leader to “speak the unspeakable” about issues that frustrate, destroy morale, cause inefficiencies or simply don't make sense. When tension is palpable, probe gently with a non-threatening question such as, “I sense that something isn’t quite right in the office. Any idea what it might be?” or “I’m feeling tension right now. Would you help me figure out where it’s coming from so we can address it?”
A weak link. Is there a slacker on the team that others have to consistently cover for? Someone who is chronically late; doesn't work up to his or her full potential; or is sloppy, unfriendly or rude? This scenario can lead to resentment if left unchecked or continues on a long-term basis. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. Identify how much stress this individual is causing the rest of the team. Sometimes, strengthening (or replacing) the weak link improves the overall productivity of the entire team.
Personality conflicts. She’s outgoing, friendly and boisterous. He's an introvert, shy and quiet. They'll either get along great or drive each other crazy. If they are on the same team, any conflict they have might spill over and affect the entire office. When personality conflicts create stress, it's best to sit down with the individuals involved to talk about their difference and how they can effectively work together in spite of them. Staff members should know that though they don’t have to like one another on a personal level, they are expected to treat one another with respect.
Lack of connection. How long has it been since your team has had the chance to decompress together? Often, tension is the result of team members feeling disconnected from one another. Though tension makes team members less interested in spending time together, the irony is that that's often the antidote for tension! Consider scheduling a relaxed staff meeting, play day, social function or another event designed to reconnect your team.
Tension does not age gracefully. Tackle it the minute you see it in your office and you'll have a top-performing and producing team.
CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing problems dentists and staff members experience in the office. Front Desk is prepared by Mary M. Byers, CAE, a professional speaker and freelance writer. Email Ms. Byers or visit www.marybyers.com. Suggestions? Email suggestions for topics to be covered to the Chicago Dental Society.
A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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