Conflict: How to overcome approval addiction

Conflict: How to overcome approval addiction

Nips and growls around the practice tying your stomach in knots? Learn to navigate tense conversations with calmness and authority.
Oct 01, 2008

You're reviewing your monthly financial reports for your practice and notice a significant jump in your accounts receivable. On further investigation, you find that this increase consists mainly of cases seen by your newest associate veterinarian and that this trend has been developing ever since this doctor came on board. Obviously, you must address the issue. How will you handle it?

An otherwise excellent assistant is frequently tardy. Two other employees are experiencing an ongoing personality conflict that affects the rest of the office. Will you confront them?

A long-term client who previously requested "temporary" credit has fallen behind on his account and yet wants to continue to receive services for his chronically ill pet. What will you do?

Personnel issues
All these scenarios share a common thread: They require a potentially difficult conversation between you and another person. Even in practices with a full-time office manager, these situations often require input or final disposition by the practice owner. I speak from experience—I've been far too patient with a chronically tardy employee and I once continued to offer discounted services to a client with a diabetic dog whose account was falling further and further behind. If you often shy away from confrontation because of a fear of hurting someone's feelings, follow this plan to overcome your approval addiction.

Fight or flight

Conflict resolution. Confrontation. Correction. Discipline. Policy enforcement. Boundary setting. Even the names we use for these types of situations sound unpleasant. That's because they represent some of the most emotionally draining aspects of owning or managing a veterinary practice—especially considering how very little training veterinarians receive in dealing with such matters. As a result, a discussion of how to proceed through these conversations might be beneficial.

There are two ways to look at the question "How will you handle it?" First, you can emphasize the word "handle"—i.e., "How will you handle it?" This approach focuses on the external factors surrounding tough conversations: the time of day, the seating arrangement, and so on. It might also prompt you to think about the actual words you'll speak to the other person and how they'll help you achieve your desired result.

The bottom line
You can also emphasize the word "you"—"How will you handle it?" Phrased this way, the question refers more to your internal processes—your perceptions and emotions surrounding the conflict. Though these internal realities are more difficult to discuss objectively, they're critical to the overall, long-term outcome of these conversations—perhaps even more so than external considerations.