When everyone in a practice gets along, everyone benefits. Team members benefit by spending less time in conflict, getting work done faster, and enjoying their work environment. Patients get a better, more efficient experience. And the practice becomes more productive and profitable. More productivity means you can serve even more patients.
Unfortunately, conflict-free workplaces are the minority across businesses. The data suggest 85% of employees experience some kind of conflict at work. The conflict often occurs because one team member is a toxic, argumentative bully. If this happens in your workplace, everyone will suffer. Dealing with that person can be a big struggle. It’s hard to be excited for your day when you have to walk on eggshells the minute you walk through the practice doors. It’s hard to be engaged when you’re all caught up in bitter feelings about the interaction you just had with a toxic team member. The sad truth is that many employees end up leaving their jobs over toxic team members. And the highest performers are often the ones who leave because they know they can find another job fairly easily. Over time, the entire practice can decline.
In the Trapped in an OP Facebook group, one member expressed her frustrations with a toxic team member and asked the community for direction. As always, the community came to her support. She asked the community what she could do to deal with it so that she didn’t end up quitting her job over it.
How a Team Leader Can Deal with Toxic Team Members
A lot of the members in the Trapped in an OP Facebook group were upset with the doctor who was allowing a staff member to engage in toxic behavior. They believed it was up to the team leader—the doctor, in this case—to intervene if such behavior was going on. If you’re the team leader, it’s ultimately your responsibility to address toxic behavior. If you don’t, you might end up losing some of your best team members because of one toxic person on your staff.
One of the best things you can do as a doctor is deal with any issues while they are small. This can be a challenge because small issues often fly under the radar of the team leader. Team members sometimes just deal with small annoyances on their own. But if left unchecked, those small annoyances can get big. If they do, it is much more difficult to address.
If you don’t know whether there’s a toxic team member in your ranks, don’t be afraid to ask your team. Oftentimes, a toxic team member will act one way with you and a completely different way with staff members. Ask your team to share small and large issues with you so you can eliminate the smaller issues while they are still small and address larger issues one-on-one with the toxic team member. Make sure the person knows their behavior is unacceptable. And be willing to provide training to help them change course.
How Team Members Can Deal with Toxic Team Members
A resounding piece of advice from members in the Trapped in an OP community was to rise above the toxicity and avoid feeding into the negativity.
As a first step, document the behavior. In addition, the community suggested killing the toxic person with kindness. If you ignore them or don’t react to their toxic behavior, they’ll realize they can’t get a rise out of you and often stop. A bully only gets satisfaction if they know they are bothering you. And if they think they need to be a bully to get their way, ignoring them helps them understand toxicity doesn’t work.
If it gets unbearable, call them out on their behavior. Tell them they can no longer treat you like that. Establish boundaries. If they still don’t stop, keep documenting their behavior and collecting evidence of things they’ve said or done. Then meet with your team leader to show them the evidence, discuss what you have tried, and let them know that this person’s behavior is creating a high risk of team members (such as yourself) moving on.
Do You Have Toxic People on Your Team?
One toxic team member can make an entire practice struggle. If you spot a toxic team member in your practice, be sure to address it as soon as possible.