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How to Diffuse Difficult Situations as an Office Manager

Whether it’s with a frustrated patient or an angry employee, here are some go-to steps to resolve issues

Posted by Taylor Rose on Aug 15, 2019

As a manager you are a referee, a mentor, and a pilot — in addition to the million other reigns you guide everyday. The balance can be tricky, especially when an employee or a patient is upset. Dental offices are a unique beast; in one office there are many roles, all with very different skill sets and responsibilities. Which requires you to wear many hats and resolve issues on many fronts.   

With staff 

Being a leader comes with many challenges, especially when someone on your staff is upset. The most important thing in these moments is communication. In the Harvard Business Review it’s noted that nearly 70% of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees. The article goes onto say how people actually thrive on feedback, whether negative or positive as long as it’s constructive. 

When a colleague voices a complaint, make sure that you actively listen. Repeat back their concerns and create an environment where you can not only validate their concerns and emotions, but also provide them avenues to solve it. If it’s an issue with a co-worker perhaps hold a meeting where they can sit down and express their concerns establishing an action plan to work around them. If it’s an issue with their role, perhaps help them create a career plan that allows them to gain the necessary tools to fix the current situation. 

With a patient 

Being the office manager in a dental practice means that you are a jack of all trades. More often than not, an angry patient is typically upset about a recommended treatment or their insurance coverage. At Renaissance, we know that insurance plans can be tricky waters to navigate. It’s actually why we developed a software to make submitting claims as simple and transparent as possible. When you are helping a patient understand their insurance coverage you play the role of educator, making sure they understand every point and what you can and cannot control. However, passing off the blame will likely only entice more anger on their part. Taking ownership of the situation lets the patient know that they don’t need to feel defensive or helpless. Instead, be their advocate with the insurance company. Even if you know that the issue will not be resolved in a way that they want, at least your patient knows that you did your best and hold their health as the highest priority. 

In the moment, being a calm arbeiter is difficult. Make sure you remain calm, getting frustrated will only heighten their emotions and can lead to a bad review of your dental practice. Like dealing with a tumultuous situation with staff, actively listen to them can help. Ask questions that get to the real root of the issue. Perhaps they are afraid they can’t afford your care or that they will need to take more time off work than expected. Sympathise with them and do your best to find a compromise. This lets them know that you care and that your office is competent. After all, the most loyal patients are those who feel a personal connection with your practice.