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Recruitment - conflicts

Most people are familiar with workplaces where a single employee is allowed to slow down everyone else. Everyone knows that one employee disagrees with the management about the direction the company should take. Just as everyone knows that the job is not the dream position for the person holding the company back.

Sometimes the question arises: "Why does the boss put up with it?" Or "When will he/she find another job that makes him/her happy?" It's not always that a collaboration starts with being off track. It may well develop over time. Other times, it's obviously problematic within a week.

Wrong choices can be costly

Several studies over time have shown how it costs all kinds of companies about one year's salary in direct and indirect costs to replace an employee. Regardless of the employee's position in the company.

Therefore, it pays to make sure that the right people are hired in the company. Just as it pays to make working conditions so attractive that the practice's staff is never tempted to leave again.

Team, test or something else?

I don't know many dentists who are fabulous at picking the right candidate from among applicants for an open position - myself included. On the other hand, I know many teams that are great at it when they stand together and help each other.

A dental clinic is a business where teamwork is insanely important. If the team doesn't work, the clinic doesn't work. It's as simple as that, for better or worse.

If the culture is described in the job ad as "we get on well together", then it's conspicuous if the team isn't present at the job interview. Because how can an aplicant find out if "we get on well together" if we don't select our candidates together. In a situation like this, it makes sense for the team to help the manager.

But what if the practice culture is based on "high professional standards"? Then the focus would presumably be centred on professional competencies (most often the dentist's professional competencies) or the path towards how a candidate will acquire these. Here it may be easier for dentists to fall into the trap of selecting employees without the help of the team.

It can seem awkward for everyone involved if the team is present at the interview while the boss expresses discomfort or annoyance at this. If you know this will be the case, you need to use other methods. For example, personality tests of the candidates you think are best suited to the job. Testing is usually best done prior to interviews. I will come to this possibility in a later blog post.

I think it is important to ensure consistency between what we write in the job ad and what we do at the interview. Just as there should be an awareness that it is not ju only the applicant who is being screened during the interview. So is the dental practice and the team within the practice.

This week

Once again, I hope it is clear how everything we do should be reflected in the vision and culture of the clinic. The better we are at defining our vision and culture, the easier it will be to attract the right candidates.

If you didn't get to read the post on the 4 prerequisites for recruitment, I recommend you read it now. You can find it here.

If you think that all this talk about vision and culture doesn't matter, I think it's important that you read on.

Remember the dirty recruiting practices I described last week? You can prevent them significantly if you actively engage with what I write about in the blog post this week. Plus, we'll look at some of the consequences I regularly encounter when I'm invited to help practices optimize their business.

When the job is "oversold"

The culture and vision of the clinic are extremely important elements in recruitment.

If an employee is lured to work in a company based on golden promises that later turn out to be a far stretch from reality. Then the employee often ends up finding another job.

This is usually an unfortunate experience for the practice owner. But just as much for the employee who initially accepted the job. Because it was unrealistic expectations of the job that made the employee initially accept the position.

Why wait when there are so few?

It can seem hopelessly frustrating to have to wait for the right candidate when you have an urgent need. Why not just take the first and best candidate? After all, a dentist is a dentist, just as a dental hygienist is a dental hygienist.

That's kind of true. But if we zoom out a little, we realise that there is a human being behind the professional title. This is where vision and practice culture become crucial.Because it is not the dentist or the dental hygienist, but the person behind the professional who must fit into the dental practice.

When the vision doesn't match

Challenges arise if the dental clinic brings in an employee with a different vision than the manager. Eventually, the new hire will start looking for a new job fairly quickly. This is extremely costly and unfortunate for all parties. Alternatively, a power struggle could arise between the employee and the manager. This can start a trip up what is called the Conflict ladder.

The Conflict ladder

The Conflict ladder is a management tool that describes how a conflict develops step by step over time. In the same way, the conflict ladder can be used to help you see how to intervene to move the parties involved back down the ladder. If you get too far up the conflict ladder, it becomes impossible to get back down without dismissals.

Note that I wrote dismissals in the plural. That was not a mistake. Because when conflicts are allowed to develop, the parties to the conflict begin to involve the colleagues around them. In this way, different groupings are created around the parties involved in a conflict. It becomes "them and us" in the clinic. When this happens, the conflict will almost always develop to the point where it is impossible to return to a conflict-free working day without having to dismiss staff.

Who gets fired in a conflict?

Let's just be clear that it's not the practice owner who gets fired (unless he or she ends up with a mental health diagnosis as a result of the process. In that case, we can speak of an indirect dismissal of the owner) When, in a conflict, 2 factions are created in the clinic, it often turns out, unfortunately, that the conflict lasts. Even if the employee who started the conflict is dismissed. The conflict lives on through the factions that were created during the conflict. No one can remember what the initial conflict was about. But it is agreed that the other team are the stupid ones. That's why these conflicts usually end with the dismissal of several employees.

That is, the clinic goes from an annoying situation with a single missing employee, to being forced to its knees. Conflicts of this magnitude can take many years to resolve. It is costly and takes a toll on both finances and the psyche.

Create a common direction

Of course, it doesn't have to end that badly. Many dental practices live with employees who do not share the vision of the practice owner. In many cases, this conflict lives on beneath the radar. Or with a tolerated stay from the boss because it's just too much of a hassle to replace the employee.

The problem is that a single employee with a divergent vision tends to slow down the development of the entire clinic. Not only in a small clinic, but also in large clinics as well.

How the clinic achieves progress

It is therefore destructive for everyone to have employees who have personal visions that differ significantly from those of the manager and the rest of the team. That's why it's so important for the dental practice owner to get their vision defined in writing and share it with the dental team - over and over again.

In this way, when the vision is repeated time and again, it is okay to confront those employees whose vision points in a completely different direction. It becomes clear how they are not an ideal fit for the team and in this way we can, with good conscience, help them find another workplace where the vision is more in line with that of the employee.

In this way, the dental clinic is able to find a candidate with a better match and accelerate the clinic's development at a pace that previously seemed impossible.


There can be many other reasons why a dental practice's development has stalled than a bad match between the practice owner and the vision of individual staff members. So BEFORE you sit down in the office and work out how to change the whole team, I would recommend that you take a second breath and think about whether what you are doing makes sense - sorry but I'd rather not be accused of recommending layoffs. It's rare that I do - but it happens.

What can we learn from this?

The reason I describe the conflicts and possible consequences of a poor match of visions is in part:

  1. It highlights the importance of having a clear vision that everyone in the team knows and is committed to working towards. Not like an indifferent piece of paper hanging somewhere on the notice board behind 30 other notes. But as a tool used on a daily basis to guide everyone to make better decisions.

  2. It is important to know what personality, values and vision an employee should have to function well in the dental team. Only in this way can the practice build a "dream team" and avoid short-term and extremely expensive hires.

  3. Once the clinic has defined the type of employee it is looking for, it can bend slightly towards the candidates it is able to attract. But also only slightly.

  4. Culture is as much about what we say we do as it is about what we actually do. The more clearly the culture shines through at every stage of the recruitment process, the easier it is for a candidate to decide whether the job feels right or not. The same is true for the dental office when they meet a potential candidate for the job.

I'm sorry if the blog post got a bit long this time. There is much more that belongs to this theme. Part of it, I'll write about next week.

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Can't wait until next week for concrete tips on how to optimize your dental practice? Then call or write me directly. I look forward to talking to you about your challenges.

Many kind regards Jesper Hatt DDS

P: +41 78 268 00 78


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