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Dental Economics: 3 steps to mediate a team conflict

Dental Economics: 3 steps to mediate a team conflict

Don’t let toxic teammates bring you down—there’s a fair, objective process to facilitate a conversation between two team members who are at odds that can help everyone go about their day peacefully.

Imagine you’re with a patient and things are going smoothly. Suddenly you hear raised voices, the slam of a hand hitting a desk, and someone shouting, “I can’t believe you just said that! Who do you think you are?” Is this an angry patient? Nope. It’s two of your team members and with a sinking feeling, you know what comes next. You’ll have to mediate a conflict.

Conflicts are very common when two or more people are together (and sadly, even when you’re by yourself!). The good news is that there is a fair, objective process to facilitate a conversation between two team members who are at odds. This model encourages each person to listen, take responsibility, and develop their own agreement. I’ve taught versions of this process to elementary school children, so I’m confident that you’ll be able to do this, too.

The three-step mediation process

Step one: Establish ground rules
Ask both people to agree to general ground rules for the mediation. These rules are designed to create parity, ensure respectful communication, and develop accountability. Request that each person verbally commit to these rules and add any other rules of their own to foster a sense of safety.

Sample ground rules

  • Speak for yourself (not “we” or “everyone” thinks).
  • Avoid words such as “always” or “never.” Focus on this situation.
  • Acknowledge your contribution to the situation rather than focusing on blame.
  • Describe your feelings and how your feelings may have influenced your behavior.
  • Listen as openly and without judgment as possible.

Step two: Describe the process
Your employees will naturally feel anxious, so in this step, you’ll discuss the model:

  • Each person will describe in one sentence their desired goal for this conversation.
  • Each person will share what happened from their point of view, while the other listens and restates what they heard.
  • Each person can then ask clarifying questions of the other party.
  • Each person will acknowledge their contribution to the situation and commit to a new behavior so that this situation doesn’t recur.

Step three: The mediation process

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