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How to Mediate Team Conflicts


Conflicts are  inevitable when two or more people are together. (And sadly, even when you’re by yourself!) Some conflicts are so heated that it requires a neutral person to mediate. This article will describe HOW dentists can mediate conflicts so that each party can take responsibility and move to a resolution. I’ve taught the following process to elementary school kids – so I’m confident that you can do this too!

Establish ground rules

The first step is for all parties to agree to general ground rules for the mediation such as these:

  • Speak for yourself (not “we” or “everyone” thinks).
  • Acknowledge your contribution to the situation rather than focusing on blame.
  • Describe your feelings and how your feelings may have influenced your behavior.
  • Agree to listen as openly and without judgement as possible.

Describe the overall process

Next, describe the process so that both parties can anticipate what to expect. This step will help reduce their anxiety.

Step 1: Each person will state in 1 sentence their desired goal for the conversation.

Step 2: Each person will share what happened from their point of view, while the other listens and then restates what they heard.

Step 3: Each person can then ask clarifying questions of the other party.

Step 4: Each person will acknowledge their contribution to the situation and commit to a new behavior so that this situation doesn’t reoccur.

The Mediation Process

These are the detailed steps for the mediator to follow.

  1. Describe the ground rules and ask if there are any to add.
  2. Ask each person to share their goal for the mediation: What would be the best possible outcome for this conversation? Ideally this answer should be stated without blaming or denigrating the other party.
  3. Choose the most emotional person (Person A) to share what happened from their point of view. Intervene if Person A becomes blameful, judgmental or makes assumptions. If this happens, ask Person A to rephrase their statements until they are more neutral and with a focus on their feelings.
  4. Ask Person B to restate what they heard Person A say, using neutral terms.  Invite Person A to affirm when this restatement is accurate.
  5. Invite Person B to share their side of the story.
  6. Ask Person A to restate what they heard until Person B agrees its accurate.
  7. Invite either party to ask clarifying questions of the other or to share new insights about what happened and why.
  8. Given, that each contributed to the situation, ask Person A what s/he will do differently in future. When Person A describes their new behaviors, ask what s/he would like from Person B.
  9. Ask Person B to do the same until they reach an agreement for the future.
  10. Finally, you can ask each person to write down their commitments so that this situation doesn’t reoccur.

Final Tips

If the parties are emotional or blameful, it may awhile for them to improve their communication so that it’s more helpful.  Your role is to request each person to restate their communication until it comports with the ground rules.  The good news is that this re-statement training can help deter future conflicts from developing.

And more good news is that you can train team members to use this process with each other so that you don’t always need to be the mediator. If you’d like some help with this, let me know.

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“As an Office Manager, I’ve seen a great difference in my practice since starting with Sharyn. Three years ago our staff was in turmoil with a lot of infighting and gossip and some jealousy directed towards me.

I had given up because everything I did was judged. Now I have learned to have more one-to-one communication and by being more vulnerable with individuals I found my leadership voice. As a team, we’re all focused on the same goals.

Last year, in August we produced $88,000. This year we’re on track to produce $111,000 this month. I know it’s because we learned how to follow through with patients and communicate our expectations while building our systems.

Sharyn has gotten us out of our comfort zone and inspired us to dream bigger and it works.”

–Sharon St Pierre, Sperbeck Dental Care

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