Workplace Conflict Resolution

Table of Contents

Introduction

Workplace conflicts in nursing practice, as a rule, affect patient outcomes and the general dynamics of activities negatively due to the lack of normal interaction among the employees involved and a tense situation in the collective. In this regard, team leaders should apply relevant conflict resolution strategies and prevent disagreements among nurses timely in order to prevent negative effects on the care regimen. However, employees themselves should also strive to establish a productive work environment and avoid interpersonal contradictions, which is consistent with the ethical standards of medical professionals’ work. As an example of a situation that required the participation of both conflict parties and a nurse leader, I can offer a case from my professional practice in the Miami hospital setting. The nursing assistant could not agree with me regarding the distribution of workload and the shift schedule, which led to significant contradictions. This, in turn, could lead to the poor quality of care services due to constant distraction to uphold personal views and debate. The use of an effective collaboration strategy made it possible to eliminate the consequences of the conflict and establish a productive work environment.

Details of the Conflict

The conflict in question occurred at my previous work in the Miami hospital setting in the intensive care unit. I worked in accordance with the standard schedule set by the head nurse, and there were several other junior medical specialists in our department. The nursing assistant had little experience and came to our department after receiving an appropriate certificate allowing her to work. Nevertheless, a few months after she started her activities, she began to resent the incorrect schedule and too high a workload. In particular, she insisted that my schedule was too easy, and therefore, she had to stay in the workplace above the norm. I, in turn, did not agree with her arguments and explained that each of the employees had a specific number of hours per day, which corresponded to the working code. However, the nursing assistant insisted on revising the schedule and, in particular, replacing individual shifts with me due to her tiredness.

As a result, I came to the conclusion that the conflict could not be avoided because the nursing assistant did not want to listen to my arguments and was not ready to accept the existing working conditions. She appealed with her right to rest and hoped that the leadership would meet her and change the schedule, thereby expanding my workload. I, in turn, was not ready to put up with this outcome, and the tense situation needed to be resolved because the existing disagreements affected my moral state and affected the quality of work with patients negatively.

Four Stages of the Conflict

The analysis of the proposed conflict can highlight its characteristic features and determine the optimal strategies for resolving it. In particular, based on the theory proposed by Finkelman (2016), disagreements among nurses in the workplace can be assessed in the context of four stages – latent, perceived, felt, and manifest conflict. Each of the stages determines the peculiarities of disagreements, which, ultimately, lead to overt contradictions between colleagues.

In my case, the latent conflict manifested itself when the nursing assistant became indignant at the unfair work schedule and expressed dissatisfaction with her workload. There were no disagreements between us, and I did not realize that my schedule could cause complaints from any of my colleagues. The perceived stage started after I heard from other employees that the assistant mentioned me as a potential candidate for reorganizing the work schedule in her favor. At this moment, I realized that I needed to discuss the situation with her, and then, I took the initiative and asked the assistant to clarify her complaints to me personally. She, in turn, conveyed to me her position; I did not agree with it, which led to an open form of conflict. The felt stage manifested itself when I heard unflattering remarks that the leaders of the team were biased towards me, and I had priorities in the distribution of workload. I began to experience stress and was worried about how to resolve the situation. In the end, our conflict turned into the manifest stage, when other colleagues saw and heard our overt contradiction.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Based on the features of the presented conflict, meeting the interests of both parties was an important aspect of the resolution. Given the explicit intention of the nursing assistant to achieve the desired outcome, the strategy of compromising could be implemented as a key method of resolving the disagreement. According to Başoğul and Özgür (2016), this principle of conflict resolution “involves give-and-take, whereby both parties give up something to make a mutually acceptable decision” (p. 230). However, such an outcome would mean that I would have to give way to the assistant, thereby worsening my schedule and behaving as a party that acted to one’s own detriment. This result was unacceptable to me because I did not consider the current schedule to be biased or incorrect. As a result, I decided to pay attention to the strategy of collaboration as a potentially effective mechanism of conflict resolution.

This method of conflict resolution is one of those that involve the least severe consequences for each of the parties involved. In their research, Labrague et al. (2018) argue that the strategy of collaboration is the most common practice used by nursing professionals to resolve work disagreements. In particular, the detailed discussion of conflicts by both parties involved can help identify the key gaps and omissions, thereby drawing conclusions regarding their quickest and most productive resolution. In the case under consideration, the position of the nursing assistant was based on claims to the existing principle of workload distribution. Consequently, the analysis of the situation could help determine acceptable conditions for both parties, which indicates the usefulness of the collaboration strategy.

Collaboration with a Nurse Leader

In order to resolve the current conflict successfully, interaction with our nurse leader was a mandatory aspect that could allow consensus to be reached with the disagreement. In particular, I asked the head nurse to analyze the existing schedule in order to identify any possible inconsistencies and errors that the assistant mentioned. Nonetheless, I did not resort to tough communication and tried to convey to the leader the importance of resolving the conflict in order to maintain a favorable microclimate and prevent the deterioration of patient outcomes. Lahana et al. (2019) argue that such a collaborative practice is a “mature and efficacious approach” that excludes personal interests and helps focus on the optimal outcome of the resolution (p. 37). Therefore, the nurse leader received from me clear information about the causes of the conflict and potential mistakes made during the planning of the workload.

As a result of the measures taken, the nurse leader examined the work schedule and came to the conclusion that my workload was not weak. At the same time, some concessions to the assistant were made due to her insufficient work experience. In the end, my junior colleague thanked me for my attention and apologized for too harsh remarks and claims addressed to me. This result proves that the practice of collaboration with the involvement of responsible persons is an effective method of resolving conflict situations and reaching consensus through a detailed assessment of disagreements.

Conclusion

In the conflict in question, the application of the collaboration strategy allowed us to exclude disagreements and overcome misunderstandings that could affect patient outcomes negatively. The experience gained is valuable due to an opportunity to assess a specific situation from the perspective of the theory of four stages, analyze the available resolution methods, and select the optimal approach. In addition, due to the productive interaction with the nurse leader, none of the parties experienced bias, and the outcomes of the dispute left my younger colleague and me satisfied. In the future, I can cope with working conflicts more successfully by assessing disputes quickly and using adequate methods to resolve disagreements. Also, I will be guided more confidently in these approaches and be able to prevent open contradictions. Involving appropriate strategies can help minimize misunderstandings that can lead to interpersonal accusations and, thereby, cause a deterioration in patient outcomes due to the lack of attention to immediate work responsibilities.

References

Başoğul, C., & Özgür, G. (2016). . Asian Nursing Research, 10(3), 228-233.

Finkelman, A. (2016). Leadership and management for nurses (3rd ed.). Pearson.

Labrague, L. J., Al Hamdan, Z., & McEnroe‐Petitte, D. M. (2018). . Journal of Nursing Management, 26(8), 902-917.

Lahana, E., Tsaras, K., Kalaitzidou, A., Galanis, P., Kaitelidou, D., & Sarafis, P. (2019). . International Journal of Healthcare Management, 12(1), 33-39.

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