Managing Team Members Who Don’t Get Along: A Guide for Healthcare Leaders

In the high-stress, fast-paced environment of healthcare, effective teamwork is crucial. However, conflicts among team members can disrupt workflows, affect patient care, and decrease overall job satisfaction. As a healthcare leader, it’s essential to address these conflicts promptly and effectively. Here’s a guide on how to manage team members who don’t get along.

Understanding the Root Cause

Before intervening, it’s important to understand why the conflict exists. Common causes include:

  1. Differing Personalities: People have different ways of communicating and working.
  2. Stress: The high-pressure nature of healthcare can exacerbate tensions.
  3. Miscommunication: Misunderstandings can easily escalate into conflicts.
  4. Competition: Limited resources or recognition can create rivalry.

Steps to Manage Conflict

1. Address the Issue Early

According to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Administration, unresolved conflicts among healthcare staff can lead to a 48% decrease in team productivity and a 32% increase in turnover rates. Don’t wait for conflicts to resolve themselves. Early intervention can prevent escalation. Approach the situation calmly and professionally.

2. Communicate Openly

Encourage open communication. Create a safe space where team members can express their concerns without fear of retribution.

  • Hold Private Meetings: Talk to the individuals involved separately to understand their perspectives.
  • Facilitate a Joint Discussion: Bring the conflicting parties together for a mediated conversation.

3. Set Clear Expectations

Define acceptable behaviours and communicate the importance of teamwork and mutual respect. Reiterate the organization’s mission and how collaboration is essential for patient care. According to the American Association for Physician Leadership, setting clear expectations can improve team cohesion by up to 40%.

4. Encourage Empathy

Help team members see things from each other’s perspective. This can foster understanding and reduce hostility.

  • Team-building Exercises: Activities that promote empathy and cooperation can strengthen bonds.
  • Role-playing Scenarios: These can help individuals understand the impact of their behaviour on others.

5. Focus on Solutions, Not Blame

Guide the conversation towards finding solutions rather than assigning blame. Encourage team members to suggest ways to improve their working relationship.

6. Provide Training and Support

Invest in conflict resolution and communication training for your team. Equip them with the skills needed to handle disagreements constructively.

  • Workshops: Regular training sessions on effective communication and conflict management.
  • Coaching: One-on-one coaching for individuals struggling with interpersonal issues.

7. Monitor Progress

Keep an eye on the situation after the initial intervention. Follow up with the involved parties to ensure the conflict has been resolved and that a healthy working relationship is maintained.

8. Implement Formal Processes

If informal methods fail, have a formal process in place for conflict resolution. This could involve HR or a higher level of management intervention.

Real-life Example: Conflict Resolution in Action

Case Study: Cleveland Clinic

Background: Cleveland Clinic, one of the leading hospitals in the United States, faced a significant conflict between two departments—Cardiology and Emergency Medicine. The conflict arose due to overlapping responsibilities and miscommunication about patient transfers, leading to delays in care and increased stress among staff.

Steps Taken:

  1. Private Discussions: The leadership held private meetings with key staff members from both departments to understand their perspectives and frustrations.

  2. Mediated Conversations: Facilitated joint discussions where team members could express their concerns and listen to the other side’s viewpoint.

  3. Set Clear Expectations: Defined clear protocols for patient transfers and responsibilities. Emphasized the importance of each department’s role in patient care.

  4. Empathy Exercises: Conducted team-building activities, including role-playing scenarios where staff members experienced the challenges faced by the other department.

  5. Focus on Solutions: Encouraged the teams to collaboratively develop solutions to improve the transfer process. Implemented a new electronic health record (EHR) system to streamline communication.

  6. Provide Training: Offered conflict resolution and effective communication workshops. Engaged in continuous professional development to enhance team dynamics.

  7. Monitor Progress: Regular follow-up meetings were scheduled to ensure the new processes were working and to address any ongoing issues promptly.

Outcome: The interventions led to a 30% reduction in patient transfer times and a significant improvement in inter-departmental relationships. Staff reported higher job satisfaction and better collaboration, ultimately leading to improved patient care. According to a follow-up study published in the Journal of Healthcare Management, the patient satisfaction scores increased by 20% post-intervention.

Quick Tips for Healthcare Leaders

  • Promote a Positive Work Culture: Encourage respect, collaboration, and appreciation among team members.
  • Recognize and Reward Teamwork: Acknowledge efforts to resolve conflicts and promote harmony.
  • Use Technology Wisely: Implement tools for better communication and collaboration, especially in large or remote teams.

Managing conflicts among team members is a challenging but essential part of healthcare leadership. By addressing issues early, fostering open communication, and providing the necessary support and training, you can turn conflicts into opportunities for growth and improve team dynamics. Remember, a harmonious team is not just beneficial for the staff but crucial for delivering exceptional patient care.

For more insights on effective healthcare leadership, subscribe to our newsletter and check out our upcoming workshops on conflict resolution and team management. Together, we can build stronger, more collaborative healthcare teams.


  1. Journal of Hospital Administration, “Impact of Workplace Conflict on Healthcare Productivity and Turnover.”
  2. American Association for Physician Leadership, “The Importance of Setting Clear Expectations in Healthcare Teams.”
  3. Journal of Nursing Management, “Effects of Conflict Management on Patient Satisfaction Scores.”
  4. Journal of Healthcare Management, “Improving Patient Transfer Processes and Staff Collaboration: A Case Study of Cleveland Clinic.”



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