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Managing internal conflict

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  Posted by: The Probe      9th July 2022

A dental practice, like any other work environment, is a place where many different personalities coexist. Among staff there will be people with different backgrounds, outlooks, sexualities, religions – the variety is truly endless.

However, while variety is the spice of life, it can also lead to conflict. Work relationships can crumble, professionalism can go out the window, and in some cases, serious workplace disagreements can quickly lead to severe consequences.

How common is conflict among colleagues? 

While no specific stats seem to exist for dentistry, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) revealed in a past report that 38% of workers had experienced some form of interpersonal conflict. These stats covered one year of working and took into account both isolated disputes and ongoing difficult relationships. It also pointed out that while this percentage is already high, the reality is likely to be worse as many people would not report a falling out or argument that they didn’t consider serious.[i]

Building from this information, it’s safe to say that most people will have experienced a significant disagreement or strained relationship in the workplace. This is especially true if we take into account people’s whole careers and the multiple workplaces they have likely been part of.

The definition of workplace conflict will vary from person to person, but it is usually an umbrella term that encapsulates everything from small arguments and bad relationships between staff to serious problems that will need intervention at a legal level. Common examples of professional disagreements can be as minor as disputes over certain actions or a team member not getting on well with another. However, we all know dentistry isn’t immune to major problems too, and these can include sexist or inappropriate behaviour, racism, homophobia and many other unacceptable viewpoints that can quickly cause irreparable rifts between team members.

For example, there have been numerous reports on how racist viewpoints within the industry and dental teams have held certain individuals back.[ii] Also, there have recently been some quite high-profile allegations of racism in the profession, proving that it remains an ongoing issue.[iii]

Why disagreements damage your business

In some cases, the damage caused by conflict at work is obvious. In the case of serious issues such as sexism and homophobia, this can lead to legal action and other expensive and far-reaching consequences, let alone personal trauma for the victims. However, even general workplace conflicts can have a significant impact on your practice.

In fact, conflict in the workplace is estimated to cost businesses in the UK up to £30 billion a year.[iv] The main cause of this considerable financial outlay is the cost of a high staff turnover. If a team isn’t working well and conflict becomes unbearable, it’s likely that people will leave their current position to search for greener pastures. Recruiting, training, and integrating new staff members is no easy business, and the costs soon start to add up. Plus, you also have to consider the impact on your reputation that a high staff turnover will have. Information spreads, and if your practice begins to be viewed as a toxic place to work, it follows that you will struggle to attract professionals who will add value to your team.

Management and next steps 

As with many other aspects of dentistry, prevention is better than cure when it comes to work conflicts. You can help prevent arguments and disagreements blowing out of proportion by ensuring that your team has a good understanding of one another, and the chance to have their voice heard. One way to help keep relations good is to hold a daily morning meeting. This gives everyone the opportunity to voice any grievances, get on the same page and resolve any problems. You can also consider team-building exercises or events – this is especially beneficial when welcoming someone new to the team.

Inevitably problems will arise, but how you manage them early on is vital. Listen to people’s grievances and find solutions where possible – sometimes an argument or issue is best handled by simply talking it through. If relationships are especially bad and animosity exists between two individuals, you can try to schedule shift patterns or arrange it so that these individuals are in as little contact at the workplace as possible. Of course, this is likely to be easier said than done, so it’s worthwhile getting to the bottom of why this dislike exists and seeing if there are any potential resolutions.

Ultimately, if conflict exists at work and elevates to needing legal action, you have to feel secure that you have the advice and support you need to navigate any issues. The award-winning team at money4dentists has decades of experience assisting dental professionals, and, working with sister company lawyers4dentists, have helped resolve a number of serious staff conflicts over the years, making them an excellent choice.

Keep your practice a happy, productive space

No workplace is immune to drama, but that doesn’t mean that you should allow any conflict to impact your business. With the right approach and advice from trusted, independent advisers, you can help ensure that even should conflict occur, your practice can weather the storm.


For more information please call 0845 345 5060 or 0754DENTIST.

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Author: Richard T Lishman, Managing Director of the 4dentists Group of companies


[i] CIPD. Getting Under the Skin of Workplace Conflict: tracing The Experiences of Employees. Link: [Last accessed January 22].

[ii] Dentistry. Racism in Dentistry ‘Choking Profession’, Finds Study. Link: [Last accessed January 22].

[iii] Dental Tribune. Ethics in dentistry: Dentist Makes Racist Remarks During Panel Hearing. Link: [Last accessed January 22].

[iv] People Management. Workplace Conflict Costs Employers £30bn A Year, Study Finds. Link: [Last accessed January 22]. Offers UK Dental Practice Owners The Chance To Sell Their Practices For A Premium Price. We Are One Of The UKs Leading Company's In The Sector.

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