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Conflict Competence in the Workplace

Conflicts can happen in any workplace. All employees, while occupying the same territory, may have different values and goals. However, it is important to remember that an establishment cannot work successfully with employees that have unresolved issues. Thus, the process of solving such conflicts is an essential part of one’s work. This paper aims to describe and analyze an existing unresolved conflict and provide some strategies for its resolution that can also be used in the future.

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Conflict Information

The present conflict is interpersonal as it involves multiple employees. The first side of the dispute is represented by one of the working nurses, who recently started to make many mistakes during his shifts. Moreover, he started smoking a month ago, which often led to complaints from both staff and patients. Currently, although he performs his usual duties and does not behave aggressively with other workers and patients, his mistakes significantly affect the speed and accuracy of the operations. While many nurses and other members of the personnel are disgruntled by the actions of the man, they do not openly engage in conflict. The other side of the issue includes an administrator, who started to voice her concerns regarding the employee’s performance. She also notes that his behavior is unusual as he has much experience in the field. Moreover, the administrator believes that the performance of the employee can be considered as a sign of burnout.

The central incident of the conflict is a conversation between the two participants that happened a week ago. During one of the shifts, the administrator encountered the nurse in one of the hallways and started to talk about the possibility of the man being too tired and needing a vacation. The nurse denied the allegations angrily and argued that he does not require any rest. He also stated that his mistakes were accidental and would not happen again. Although their conversation ended abruptly after that, the two workers continued to behave rudely towards each other. The tension between the two employees and the unchanging behavior of the nurse can lead one to believe that the conflict stays unresolved.

Four Stages of Conflict

It is possible to outline four main stages of conflict and apply this structure to the existing problem. The first step is latent conflict, during which the issue itself is hidden, although the necessary elements for it to start are present (Spaho, 2013). In this case, the first stage could describe the period, when other employees did not notice the nurse’s change in behavior. While his attitude did not align with the direction of the hospital, nobody thought that this problem would last. Thus, the issue did not progress in any direction at that time. Although this stage of the conflict is often hard to identify, it is an integral part of this issue as it shows the onset of the problem. Delegation is not a part of this conflict, as the individuals do not attempt to change their responsibilities.

The second stage is the perception of the conflict, which describes the time when the sides of the conflict start to acknowledge its existence (Spaho, 2013). After the staff of the hospital noticed that the man’s behavior significantly changed, they started to discuss the problem with each other. Furthermore, the nurse also realized that his relationships with his peers deteriorated. Thus, both sides of the conflict became aware of the growing tension. However, neither the staff nor the nurse attempted to express their feelings and opinions on this matter. Moreover, they did not feel frustrated about the issue. Instead, the sides continued to perform their regular operations. This stage can last for different periods of time, depending on the personality of the involved persons.

The point in time when the conflict becomes felt is its third stage. Here, the frustrations of the individuals affect their emotional state as they grow anxious and concerned about the issue (Spaho, 2013). This step is often called the stage of personalization because people start to associate the conflict with their personal experiences. Individuals begin having hostile feelings towards each other, although they do not vocalize them to resolve the conflict. In the hospital, working personnel, including the administrator, started sharing their frustrations with each other, highlighting the emotions that they felt because of the nurse’s attitude. As a contrast, the man continued to behave more and more aggressively, acknowledging the negativity that surrounded his mistakes.

The most active stage of the conflict is its manifestation. During this stage, the sides of the conflict start engaging in conversation or interacting with each other in order to evoke a response (Spaho, 2013). This step is often characterized by aggressive behavior, apathy, obedience, or even violence. The open confrontation between the administrator and the nurse can be considered as the manifestation of the conflict because the sides finally vocally expressed their feelings and attempted to influence each other. The administrator pointed out that the nurse’s behavior did not seem to be in line with the hospital’s values and beliefs, while the man attempted to dismiss these accusations and insisted that he did not need anyone’s help.

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Strategies for Conflict Resolution

This conflict can be resolved with a number of strategies. First of all, the importance of conversation cannot be overstated. According to Barsky (2016), a meaningful and respectful communication between the sides of the conflict can lead to its resolution. Moreover, the establishment of open and trusting relationships can further encourage individuals to share their concerns with each other, which can prevent the conflicts from happening. Thus, the first tactic that can be used is negotiation. During this intervention, the individuals should reflect on their emotions and share their opinions to come to a conclusion (Runde, 2014). The factor of emotional regulation plays a significant role in this process as it establishes the direction for the interaction and creates a particular atmosphere. According to Halperin (2014), reactive emotions can negatively affect the course of a discussion, while their regulation can lead to a more favorable outcome. This type of conflict resolution can be implemented without the interference of a third party.

However, if a simple conversation between the employees is unsuccessful, one can engage a nurse leader to help with the conflict. In this case, negotiation is still possible, but it is influenced by a person of a higher position. Thus, the sides of the conflict can choose from a number of behaviors, including integration, compromise, domination, and avoidance. It is possible that the nurse leader will be able to assess the well-being of the man and suggest to him that he should change his schedule or take sick leave. Moreover, his behavior should be addressed with a superior goal tactic in mind as his attitude negatively impacts patient care (Barsky, 2016). A nurse leader can encourage the man to remember his professional values.


This particular experience shows that conflicts can arise between individuals that do not want to influence their place of work negatively. In some situations, issues appear because of misunderstandings or people’s differences in perception. This case reveals the importance of a mutual understanding and a shared goal. A nurse leader should try to rely on respectful and meaningful conversation to resolve conflicts as it can encourage employees to share their experiences.


Barsky, A. (2016). Conflict resolution for the helping professions: Negotiation, mediation, advocacy, facilitation, and restorative justice (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Halperin, E. (2014). Emotion, emotion regulation, and conflict resolution. Emotion Review, 6(1), 68-76.

Runde, C. E. (2014). Conflict competence in the workplace. Employment Relations Today, 40(4), 25-31.

Spaho, K. (2013). Organizational communication and conflict management. Management: Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, 18(1), 103-118.

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