Conflict in the workplace is inevitable because people have different opinions and perceptions regarding diverse issues. However, when conflict occurs, it may have negative implications on the workers’ morale and performance, which may lead to unmet goals or poor quality service provision. In the nursing practice, nurses may be involved in providing critical care, and thus unresolved conflicts may have adverse patient care outcomes.
Therefore, conflict resolution is an important aspect that nurses should understand in depth to avoid cases of having prolonged and unresolved differences in the workplace. Teamwork is one of the important hallmarks of successful nursing practice. However, unresolved conflicts affect healthy relationships amongst team members, thus destroying the spirit of togetherness. This paper highlights a recurring conflict that I have observed in the workplace. The different stages of conflict are described together with resolution strategies of the issue.
One day during the morning huddle, I witnessed an incident that I later learnt it was an unresolved conflict in the workplace. I had joined the hospital a few weeks earlier, and thus I was not familiar with all employees. The nurse leader came into the break room to hand over the day’s assignments before our shift could start. However, one of the nurses was not satisfied with her duty allocation to act as a relief nurse during the day shift.
When raising her discontentment she said the nurse leader, “I don’t think you understand sir, I am not saying that I can’t work as a relief nurse, I just won’t.” I thought that was an inappropriate way of raising concerns over duty allocation. Other nurses were unmoved by such a response, and I concluded may be the involved employee had problems with how she communicated generally. However, a week earlier I had heard her speak respectfully and professionally to the management of the hospital.
Later in the day, I heard other nurses discuss the incident, and I learnt that the said employee was a family nurse practitioner, but she worked as a critical care nurse to maintain her skills. Apparently, due to her education, she was in a leadership position where decisions on who to participate in different extracurricular projects were made. I learnt that such activities were important as they were considered during salary increments. Therefore, nurses were not willing to confront her unbecoming behavior and risk not participating in the extracurricular activities. During the same shift, I heard the nurse tell another colleague that she had turned off a certain patient’s IV because she thought that it was not needed.
Our colleague explained that the doctor had ordered the use of IV. However, instead of apologizing for the misunderstanding, she retorted that if our colleague wanted the IV back, he should probably walk into the room and turn it on. At that point, I confirmed earlier claims that the said nurse was disrespectful to her workmates, which underscores the nature of this conflict.
The Four Stages of Conflict
The conflict process occurs in four phases, which include the latent, perceived, felt, and manifested stages (Finkelman, 2012). During the latent phase, the involved people are not aware of the existence of a conflict. Even though I was not around when this conflict started, I know that when the said nurse joined the hospital her workmates did not realize that she was disrespectful. Therefore, this stage can be categorized as the latent phase of this conflict.
During the perceived stage, the involved individuals are aware of the existence of a conflict (Finkelman, 2012). Our leader was aware of the conflict due to the disrespectful behavior of the involved nurse. Additionally, other nurses knew about the conflict as I learnt later that day. During the felt stage, the involved parties can experience anxiety and stress. The morning that the nurse refused to execute her duties, I could sense anxiety in the room. Our nurse leader seemed confused, and he did not know how to respond to the issue. Finally, during the manifest stage, conflict is observed (Finkelman, 2012).
In the break room that morning, we all observed the said employee openly disrespecting our nurse leader. Later in the day, I witnessed the same nurse disrespect one of our colleagues. The delegation was an issue in this conflict. I learnt that one nurse had reported the issue to the management, but it was yet to be addressed. Therefore, the management had done a mistake by delegating duties to a nurse leader with knowledge that one of the employees in the team was in a leadership position that could lead to insubordination.
Conflict Resolution Strategies
According to Moreland and Apker (2015), conflict can be managed and resolved through accommodation, compromise, collaboration, avoidance, or competition. Accommodation means that the involved parties seek to maintain relationships and preserve harmony, and thus they tolerate the conflict. Using compromise as a strategy of conflict resolution means that the involved parties settle for concessions that may not be ideal for the situation (Wright, Mohr, & Sinclair, 2014).
Avoidance means overlooking the conflict to maintain the status quo. Competing implies that the affected individuals seek to win at all costs. Finally, collaboration endeavors to find solutions based on mutual agreements (Overton & Lowry, 2013). In this case, collaboration would be the best way of addressing the said conflict. I would encourage the nurse leader to sit down with the involved nurse and try to understand the cause of the conflict from her perspective. This way, he will be in a position to identify the underlying issues and settle for a lasting solution. I would collaborate with the nurse leader to ensure that he communicates clearly to inform the involved employee that her disrespectful actions are affecting service delivery in the hospital.
As a nurse leader, his first priority is to ensure that patients get quality services. Given that I heard the same nurse address the management professionally, the problem here is the lack of proper communication from our nurse leader. He should address the entire team members and remind them of their objectives as nurses in the hospital. If this strategy fails and the said employee does not change, the nurse leader is supposed to report the matter formally to the management. I would encourage him to request immediate action to be taken to address the issue as it affects service delivery.
Conflict is a common occurrence in the workplace, and I witnessed it sometimes back in a hospital where I was working. One of the nurses was disrespectful to our leader and other colleagues. The conflict that I observed had gone through all its stages, and now it had matured because it manifested for everyone to witness. In the future, I would deal with the conflict more effectively by addressing it early before it can manifest. If I encounter such a nurse in the future when am in a position of a nurse leader, I will summon the involved person after the first incident and make it clear that our primary objective is to offer quality care. Therefore, any conflict that can prevent us from achieving that goal should be resolved immediately it surfaces.
Finkelman, A. (2012). Leadership and management for nurses: Core competencies for quality care (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Moreland, J., & Apker, J. (2015). Conflict and stress in hospital nursing: Improving communicative responses to enduring professional challenges. Health Communication, 31(7), 815-823.
Overton, A. R., & Lowry, A. C. (2013). Conflict management: Difficult conversations with difficult people. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, 26(4), 259–264.
Wright, R., Mohr, C., & Sinclair, R. (2014). Conflict on the treatment floor: An investigation of interpersonal conflict experienced by nurses. Journal of Research in Nursing, 19(1), 26-37.