Two Habits of a Healthy Team: Managing Conflict and Practicing Gratitude

 

Most teams try to avoid conflict, yet can't stop focusing on the negative. Healthy teams do the opposite.

Fam Pract Manag. 2020 Jul-Aug;27(4):11-16.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

“Morale is at an all-time low.” “Everyone feels overworked, understaffed, and undervalued.” “We lose staff faster than we can hire them.” “The atmosphere is negative, and everyone is irritable and quick to snap.” “Dread is palpable at the beginning of every workday.”

This is how one physician leader described his practice environment to me. I had been invited to speak to his team members about well-being, and when I asked them how they were doing, they admitted to feeling “beat up,” “in a rut,” “boxed in,” and “not supported.” They shared that they felt more pressure than ever to deliver better outcomes with fewer people and fewer resources. Everyone I spoke with was negative, some were cynical, and others were clearly burned out. Many viewed their only option as leaving.

The team had multiple sources of conflict and negativity, but chief among them was a chronic barrage of mandated, top-down, unfunded initiatives, which left everyone feeling overwhelmed, demotivated, and demoralized.

Perhaps you can relate to this team's story, or perhaps you have a healthy team and want to keep it that way. This article will outline why a healthy team matters and share two habits that can promote team well-being: managing conflict and practicing gratitude.

KEY POINTS

  • The health of a team affects not only the individuals on the team but also the practice's performance.

  • Being able to address conflicts openly but respectfully is key to a team's progression, and it requires a foundation of trust.

  • Gratitude is important to team wellness, because team members who feel appreciated and recognized will extend those feelings to others, creating a positive cycle.

THE IMPORTANCE OF A HEALTHY TEAM AND A SKILLED LEADER

Health care is a science, an art, and an interdisciplinary team activity. A healthy team is a high-performing team, leading to better patient outcomes, reduced costs to the health care system, and improved well-being of health care providers.16 Traditionally, medical care was delivered exclusively by physicians. But excessive workloads and limited workforce now demand team-based care models in which health professionals work together at the top of their licenses.

Doctors who serve as team leaders require new skills to support not only the health and well-being of patients but also of their team members.7 The best team leaders are “multipliers” who amplify the strengths, skills, and voices of others, as opposed to “diminishers” who drain capability and intelligence from their teams.8 Leaders who possess this quality don't need to accomplish everything themselves or be experts in every area.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Pipas is a family physician and Professor of Community and Family Medicine, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and the Department of Medical Education at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is the author of A Doctor's Dozen: 12 Strategies for Personal Health and a Culture of Wellness, and has been recognized as a leader in wellness, education, research, and clinical care. Her recent awards include the 2019 Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Humanism Award and the 2019 Family Medicine Education Consortium This We Believe Award. Dr. Pipas serves as the chief wellness officer for CaseNetwork.

Author disclosure: no relevant financial affiliations disclosed.

References

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