It ripped this practice apart and the push and pull cost thousands of dollars, the result of poor decision-making, turnover, and lower productivity. Ultimately, they closed their doors. Don't suffer the same fate.
Apr 01, 2006

Meet Drs. Andy and Ben. (these aren't their real names, but this is their real story.) They're long-time friends, classmates, who want to start a practice together. They appreciate each other's skills and believe they'll work well together as business partners.

Dr. Andy is methodical, organized, and focused on getting things done. Dr. Ben is a creative thinker and a visionary, always looking ahead for new opportunities. So Drs. Andy and Ben embark on a journey together. They purchase land, build a facility, and hire staff members. They're about to live their dream.

But it wasn't a dream at all. Their practice turned into a nightmare. Two years later, Dr. Ben calls me. "Things aren't going well," he says. "Dr. Andy and I just don't see eye to eye. I want out of the practice. Can you help me?"

I wish I could tell you their story has a happy ending. It doesn't. The truth is I couldn't help. Their conflict had turned the practice on end, resulting in severe turnover and a declining client base. Both doctors had considered filing bankruptcy because they couldn't cover their mortgage payments on the practice property. They ultimately went their own ways. How could conflict get so bad that it literally tears a practice apart?

Drs. Andy and Ben let their differences generate conflict from Day 1, and they did nothing to stop it. Of course, not every disagreement results in conflict. In fact, most disagreements are constructive. They're a natural part of interacting with others and serve as a catalyst for positive change. What differentiates disagreements from conflict is how the participants choose to deal with them.

Drs. Andy and Ben chose not to deal with disagreements at all. Dr. Andy says that Dr. Ben always wanted everything to be nice and pleasant and for everyone to be happy. "He wouldn't talk about our problem," he says. "He thought it would go away by itself."

Meanwhile, Dr. Ben says confrontation made Dr. Andy uncomfortable. "As a result, our differences took on a life of their own, killing our practice," he says.

What started as complementary strengths surfaced as differences in the doctors' working styles, and unaddressed, they led to disagreements. These disagreements led to conflict for several reasons:

  • The doctors were interdependent; each needed something from the other.
  • They blamed each other, each one finding fault with the other for causing the problem.
  • They were angry, whether the emotions were hidden or open.

The owners' behaviors also caused business problems. Their relationship with each other, their staff, and their clients suffered, resulting in costly mistakes and delays. Everyone spent time dealing with stress and anger. Everyone's productivity dropped.