Negotiation is when “we’re aiming for compromise, and I am now totally getting sucked in,” he said. “Basically, I’m the United Nations and we’re bringing North and South Korea together.” This usually involves time; it may need to be added to an agenda for a staff meeting, or you may have to meet with staff after clinic. “This is something that is not going away, and we are now in drama mode,” said Dr. Vaughan.
Explore this issue:August 2015
Getting together one on one with each individual involved in the conflict means giving your opinion to each side, then hoping those sides work it out together. “This works well with new staff, once a conflict has started out of a misunderstanding,” he said.
Ending the conflict is when things are drastic and/or when you need to clear the issue fast, said Dr. Vaughan. “This can be a divorce, a bad financial deal, or a bad day when we get to the end of it, but it’s when you stop the drama and get off the island. I do this when I am going to draw a line in the sand, cut your foot off, and our relationship is done. I’m going to be emotional and it hurts me, but it clears the conflict for good.”
Using effective conflict resolution may take practice, but is worth it as a way to help others manage a situation and teach others to work together better as a team. As surgeons, Dr. Vaughan said, “We are trained to see blood vessels and cauterize them. But sometimes people can apply their own pressure and control their own bleeding.”
Honesty Is the Best Policy
Tactful communication can be an effective way to keep conflicts from escalating. “Watch your words, especially if you are angry,” said Alla Y. Solyar, MD, an otolaryngologist with the Sinus and Nasal Institute of Florida in St. Petersburg. “There is an appropriate Russian saying: ‘A word is not like a bird. Once it’s out, you can’t catch it.’”
Helping to heal patients should always be a physician’s top priority. “Be careful not to compromise patient care just to appease another physician,” said Dr. Solyar. “You need to be your patient’s champion.”
In a common situation, an otolaryngologist may find that a patient requires urgent or unexpected surgery after hours or on a weekend; this may generate resistance from anesthesia colleagues. “Calmly explain the situation and the reasoning behind after hours surgery,” said Dr. Solyar. “Impress on them that they are doing the right thing for the patient and are an important member of the patient care team” by being available for the procedure.