Published in Non-Clinical

Let’s Get This Settled: 3 Conflicts that Affect Every Eyecare Practice

This is editorially independent content
9 min read

Discover the three most common conflicts in eyecare practices and tips for increasing employee happiness and creating a positive workplace.

Let’s Get This Settled: 3 Conflicts that Affect Every Eyecare Practice
In my nearly 15 years in healthcare leadership, I am often asked the same question by new leaders and doctors I am mentoring. How do you handle conflicts between staff members?
Workplace conflicts are common within any practice. No matter how hard you work to create a welcoming workspace with an open door and smart goals, conflicts will arise.
The three most common sources of conflicts within healthcare practices are gossip, ambiguity of roles, and miscommunication.

Conflict #1: Gossip

What is gossip? Is it the malicious spread of rumors and tall tales about coworkers you don’t like? Is it relaying personal information about a coworker behind their back? Is gossip discussing the pay, work hours, and leadership decisions at your job with other coworkers? Can gossip be positive? The answer is “yes” to all those questions.
Gossip can destroy relationships and create hostile environments among coworkers within a workplace, be it a healthcare setting or a construction site. However, positive workplace gossip can also have a positive effect on a practice by encouraging cooperation, helping employees discover their underlying issues at work, and relieving stress as well as fostering self-improvement.
It can be a springboard for employees to take accountability, and it can reduce voluntary turnover.1,2

How to promote “positive” gossip

Your employees are going to gossip. Research shows that up to 90% of people engage in workplace gossip.3 To promote positive gossip and reduce the negative gossip in my practices over the years, I did two things.

Implement morning huddles

First, I introduced 15-minute morning huddles. This allows us to quickly discuss any obstacles or issues that may have arisen from the day before and set the expectations for the day. The morning huddle also allowed me to gauge the energy of my team before the day started.
Is everyone engaged, is someone upset, or did something happen the day before is that frustration still lingering? If I noticed an issue and would pull that employee aside early and try to get the issue corrected early.
This allowed me to get ahead of the potential gossip and maybe spread a bit of my own positive gossip.

Utilize Socrates' 3 Filters Questions

Second, I always teach my teams about Socrates’ 3 Filters Questions and how to apply them to everyday conversations.
Socrates' 3 Filters are:
  • “Is what you have to say true?”
  • “Is what you have to say a good thing?”
  • “Is what you have to say useful?”
This concept is easy to understand and apply to workplace conversations in the breakroom. Employees often don’t realize that they are, in fact, spreading gossip during their conversations. Creating awareness and giving them easy-to-use tools helps to reduce most gossip.
However, sometimes the 3 Filters training isn’t enough. There is one central person who appears to always be the epicenter of all gossip storms and discontent. In those instances, you must pull that person aside and have a crucial conversation with them.
Emphasize your expectations for work communications using the 3 Filter questions as a guide. Everyone deserves to feel safe at work.

Conflict #2: Ambiguity of roles and responsibilities

Healthcare is a team sport. Every day we perform elaborate sets of interconnected tasks that are interdependent on others to meet the needs of our patients.
It doesn’t matter if you are working in an optometry practice, an ophthalmology clinic, or a surgery center. All the gears must be turned in the right direction because if one thing is out of place, it can have a cascading effect with disastrous results.
This interconnectedness can be a major source of conflict within a practice when there is a lack of clarity about what someone is supposed to be doing and when it should be done. Everyone must know their role and their responsibility.
Role ambiguity leads employees to be uncertain about their roles, job objectives, and associated responsibilities. The expectations of those working with them and their supervisors may also be unclear.3 Role conflict arises when a person is confronted with two or more conflicting or opposing role expectations and the corresponding role demands of others.4

Utilizing the R.O.L.E method

A great way to mitigate the stress of role ambiguity is to sit down and have an R.O.L.E. discussion with your team on a regular basis. R.O.L.E stands for Responsibility, Ownership, Larger Purpose, and Expectations.
Give your team members a simple and clear list of their job Responsibilities in bullet point form. Be clear with them that they Own these responsibilities. Explain the Larger Purpose or the why of the work. Finally, be clear in your Expectations.
There should be no ambiguity regarding their goals, how you will be measuring success, or when you will be following up on their progress.

R.O.L.E- Final Inspection of Glasses (Sample)


  • Confirm frame matches the order form.
  • Check bench alignment.
  • Check lenses for appearance defects (i.e., scratches, discoloration, etc.)
  • Check prescription in glasses matches the order form.
  • Check pupillary distances (PDs).
  • Notify patients glasses are ready for pickup.
  • Notify patients and the manager if any glasses fail inspection.


  • Melanie Smith, LDO Lab Final Inspector

Larger Purpose

  • Completing a thorough final inspection of a patient’s glasses ensures that the patient receives the frames that they purchase and the prescription that their doctor prescribes. Our job is to deliver world-class eyecare to every person, every time to ensure ocular health.


  • Every pair of glasses that come in the morning shipment will be processed by the final inspector and all the patients will be notified that their glasses are ready for pick up.
  • Any glasses that fail final inspection will be reordered, and the manager on duty manager as well as the patients whose glasses failed inspection, will be notified by the end of day.
  • The manager of duty checks the final inspection log at the end of the business day.

Conflict #3: Miscommunication

Miscommunication in needs, wants, and appreciation often leads to conflicts in healthcare practices. Dr. Gary Chapman introduced the concept of "love languages" in his book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.
The concept seeks to explain how couples show appreciation and other forms of love for one another. According to his books, there are five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
I believe much like the relationships you have with your loved ones; you must engage with your teams to understand how they would like you to show your appreciation as well as how we want to engage with them regarding performance and accountability.
We must understand each other’s work languages for the team to thrive and eliminate many of the small conflicts that occur because people are speaking past each other rather than to one another.
To learn your coworkers work languages, ask the following:
  • How do we want to be celebrated and corrected?
  • How do you absorb new information?
  • Do you need pictures, do you prefer it in writing, or will simply talking it through with you be enough?

Determining communication styles

Some people prefer direct communication in private, others prefer group huddles, and some feel electronic communication via email or text works best for them. You need to talk to your team about their preferred method of communicating the need for correction, the introduction of new information, and the delegation of new tasks and responsibilities.
It’s not uncommon for one person to be speaking through email which may frustrate a face-to-face communicator. This simple conflict can breed resentment that can fester and spread through the office.
It’s important that you take the time to meet with your team and learn their work languages and help them understand each other’s work languages. The easiest way to reduce communication-based conflicts is not necessarily making sure everyone is speaking the same work language, but making sure everyone feels heard and understood.

In conclusion

Conflicts in the workplace are unavoidable.5 It is the job of managers, supervisors, employers, and leaders to work to solve these conflicts when they arise in the practice. In particular, conflicts between healthcare workers appear to adversely affect the quality of the healthcare provided to the public.6
The three major triggers for conflicts in the office are gossip, ambiguity of responsibilities, and miscommunication. Conflict resolution is not a one-shoe-fits-all-sizes situation, as the nature of conflicts varies. Therefore, leaders must employ different types of conflict management styles when facing different employees and situations.
How you resolve conflicts will affect how your team not only sees you, but also how they view their relationship with the organization as a whole. The strategies outlined are proven techniques that I have employed throughout my career to improve the practice efficiency, reduce employee turnover, and most importantly, increase employee happiness survey scores in my practices.
  1. Haupt S. 5 Benefits of Gossip (Even Negative Gossip). Psychology Today. Published June 22, 2015.
  2. Kim A, Gabriel AS, Kim Y, et al. How Does Workplace Gossip Benefit Gossip Actors? The Impact of Workplace Gossip on Power and Voluntary Turnover. Group Organ Manag. 2023;0(0). doi:
  3. Kalra A Omar S. Itani, and Sijie Sun. “Turning role conflict into performance”: assessing the moderating role of self-monitoring, manager trust and manager identification. J Serv Theory Pract. 2023;33(3):436-461.
  4. Kahn RL, Wolfe DM, Quinn RP, et al. Organizational Stress: Studies in Role Conflict and Ambiguity. New York: Wiley. 1964.
  5. Huan LJ, Yazdanifard R. The difference of conflict management styles and conflict resolution in workplace. Bus Entrep J. 2012;1(1):141-155.
  6. Jerng JS, Huang SF, Liang HW, et al. Workplace interpersonal conflicts among the healthcare workers: Retrospective exploration from the institutional incident reporting system of a university-affiliated medical center. PLoS One. 2017 Feb 6;12(2):e0171696. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171696. PMID: 28166260; PMCID: PMC5293271.
Gerard Johnson, MS
About Gerard Johnson, MS

Gerard is a writer, trainer, and leader who has over 20 years of healthcare experience. He has managed optometry, ophthalmology, family medicine, and urgent care practices throughout his career. Gerard currently works as a Practice Improvement Consultant in Atlanta, Georgia.

Gerard Johnson, MS
Eyes On Eyecare Site Sponsors
Astellas LogoOptilight by Lumenis Logo