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This Practice Owner Brought in a Team Coach to Deal With an Unhappy Office — to the Dismay of Some Staff

Was this the best solution under the circumstances? Our readers weighed in — and you can too.

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AS THE STAFF of Shore Vision settled into their seats for the monthly staff meeting, they noticed that there was an unfamiliar person in attendance.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now (opticiannow.com). Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

Dr. Phillips started the meeting by introducing the new face. “This is Regina. She is a professional team coach and will be spending time with all of you staff over the next month.”

As a wave of confusion appeared on the face of every staff member, Regina added, “Thank you for the introduction, Dr. Phillips. I’ll be meeting with each department throughout the next month, getting to know each of you a little bit, learning how your team functions and completing some exercises to improve the dynamic of each team.”

Dr. Philips added, “Over the past several months, I’ve noticed there has been an increased amount of tension between some team members. In an effort to all learn and grow together, I thought it would be best to have a third party lead us through this.”

There was an awkward silence and an obvious tension you could cut with a knife. Dr. Phillips added, “With that said, let’s cut out of the meeting early so Regina can lay some groundwork before we start clinic.”

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One by one, each member of the staff got up and returned to their respective work areas, with defeated looks on their faces.

“Well, this is a load of crap,” Mari, a technician, said under her breath to her tech-mate.

“We barely leave on time on any given day as it is — now we have to somehow come up with more time to talk about this B.S. that doesn’t even apply to us?!”

Just then, Regina came around the corner and sat down next to them, “Apologies for interrupting your conversation. It sounds like you have some thoughts about me being here — anything you’d like to get off your chest?”

“We all know which drama department caused this,” Mari said. “Not one of the culprits is going to be completely honest in a group setting — the only way you’ll truly get to the root cause of the problem is to talk confidentially, one-on-one, so they can all be honest. And even then, it’ll most likely just be a blame-game.”

Regina responded, “Thank you for that suggestion.”

“Oh, one more thing — and this is not at all directed at you — but I don’t understand why Dr. Phillips expects that hiring a team coach can solve these problems,” Mari concluded.

“I will be sure to communicate this to Dr. Phillips and keep my source anonymous.” Regina added, “I’m going to make my rounds before patients start to arrive. I’ll talk more with you both sometime soon.”

“Thanks for listening,” Mari smirked. “I hope you’re able to resolve the issue to Dr. Phillips’ satisfaction and you don’t need to talk with us again.”

The Big Questions

  • With poor morale and conflict resolution top-of-mind, can bringing in a third party, before discussing things internally, be a wise decision?
  • What is the best course of action when trying to resolve conflict or drama between team members or departments?
  • How do you suggest keeping up the morale of those without issues with other coworkers while going through a conflict-resolution process to ensure equitable and fair treatment for all?

 

Christine H.
Plainville, MA

Generally speaking, low morale doesn’t just happen. It occurs as a result of poor leadership/management, lack of appreciation, and poor communication. The staff here seems jaded, which makes me think issues had already been brought to management’s attention, but nothing ever came of it or that favoritism occurred when addressing the issues. While I commend the owner for bringing in a third neutral party to help address these issues, conflict will only be resolved if everyone actually wants to resolve it and works together on the coach’s recommendations.

Morgan D.
CARMI, IL

Bringing a third party in is only wise if you’ve directly confronted each person causing the issue without being passive. The doctor needed to directly address the problem with the appropriate people and good communication. Don’t make it a group issue, that makes it too easy for people to assume that someone else is the problem. Not making it about everyone goes a long way. The problem isn’t with everyone, the problem is with specific individuals and they should be the only ones confronted.

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Rick R.
Girard, PA

Will bringing in a third party fix the conflict? This is a big maybe. It’s a possibility but what happens after they leave? Who is left to oversee the changes? Maybe that was the problem all along … no one to keep issues from arising in the first place. Conflict resolution all depends on what the conflicts are. Are they personality conflicts? Are they work-related conflicts? Are they pay-related conflicts? Each type of conflict has its own set of resolutions. You keep morale up by taking action. If it’s an issue that can be reasonably resolved, then that ensures future issues can be taken care of before they fester into a morale problem.

Dina C.
Orlando, FL

I believe Dr. Philips needed to address, or try to address, the situation first before bringing in a third party. It seems as though he is almost trying to brush off the problem on to someone else. Also, it sounds like some employees feel unheard and feel helpless.

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