In any environment that involves people’s communication, there is a possibility of conflict situations. Disputes may arise because of unfair or unsatisfactory working conditions or because of poor performance of some employees. Some people prefer to share their feelings and apprehensions whereas others keep the situation to themselves. Some employees tend to discuss the matters with the management and others express their dissatisfaction in an aggressive way. There is one thing that unites all conflict situations. Whether it is an intrapersonal, interpersonal, intragroup, or intergroup dispute, it is crucial to find the best ways of resolving it. The knowledge of the types and conflicts, their stages, and methods of solving them helps the managers to arrange the most beneficial environment for their employees and gain the best performance and customer satisfaction. This issue is particularly related to healthcare institutions where patients’ health may depend on the atmosphere within the team of healthcare workers.
Description of an Unresolved Conflict
At the hospital where I work conflicts are quite rare. However, recently I became a witness of a dispute that impacted the atmosphere within the team of our department. The head nurse told one of the nurses, Jane B., to attend to the patient who was a native American. The nurse expressed disrespect to the patient’s culture, and he complained about her conduct. The patient wanted the nurse to help him perform some ritual, but the nurse said that she found it “nonsense.” However, it was very important for the patient, and his feelings were deeply hurt. It was difficult for his family to persuade him to go to the hospital, and the conflict made the patient regret his decision.
The type of conflict was interpersonal. There was a disagreement between the nurse and the patient. Because of the nurse’s lack of understanding of the patient’s culture, there was a dispute that further involved a nursing manager. The conflict was unresolved because the patient demanded to be discharged from the hospital. As a result, there was a serious danger to his health. Another negative outcome was that the patient’s daughter complained about the case to the hospital administration.
The Four Stages of Conflict
There are four stages of conflict: latent, perceived, felt, and manifest (Champoux, 2017). In the given case, only three phases were present: latent, perceived, and felt. The latent stage included the conditions preceding the conflict. The fact that Jane was not experienced in communicating with people whose culture differed from her own was the first issue. The second one was associated with the delegation mistake. The head nurse neglected the rules and appointed Jane to complete the task in which she was not skilled. The second phase was perceived conflict. It was when Jane refused to help the patient and mocked his beliefs and traditions. At that stage, the stressful situation became apparent. At the third stage, the conflict was felt. The patient complained and demanded to be discharged. His daughter came and told the hospital administration about the situation. The patient’s discharge posed a risk to his health. If there had been a possibility to decrease the tension and do some negotiation, the conflict would have entered the manifest phase. However, since there was no opportunity to resolve the problem, the fourth stage was not achieved.
As it appeared, the head nurse had no right to send Jane to that patient. Therefore, delegation was the issue in the situation. As Finkelman and Kenner (2016) remark, it is only allowed to delegate the responsibilities if the delegated person knows how to deal with them. However, Jane had not worked at the hospital for a long time, and had not had any experience of managing such cases. Thus, the head nurse did not perform delegation correctly.
Strategies for Conflict Resolution
According to Iglesias and Vallejo (2012), there are the following strategies for resolving conflicts: accommodating, compromising, competing, collaborating, and avoiding. In the situation that occurred between Jane and the patient, the accommodating approach would have been the most suitable one. The nurse should have done what the patient had asked her. If she had been more considerate of the man’s request and expressed respect towards his values, the conflict might have been avoided. Researchers note that emotion regulation plays a crucial role in the process of conflict resolution (Halperin, 2013). Thus, another way of managing the problem would have been an attempt to calm down the patient and talk to him about the significance of conventional medicine.
Although he did not share such views, no one made an effort to reassure him. Instead, the nurse only expressed her contempt to the traditional approaches the patient wanted to use. Therefore, the compromising approach could also have been useful in the discussed case. It would have eliminated the likelihood of the patient’s complains and could have assured that the man would stay at the hospital. However, none of the strategies was used, which led to adverse outcomes not only for the employees involved, but for the whole hospital and, most importantly, for the patient. His chances to recover became minimized when the patient decided to go home and refused to receive any further treatment.
The experience that I gained from the situation was unique and significant. I learned about the problems with delegation and realized how crucial it was to make each decision in healthcare settings with the maximum precision and care. I saw to what outcomes the delegation problems might lead and realized that people’s lives might be put under threat if a decision was not made correctly.
In the future, I will try to avoid such conflicts in the following ways. First of all, if I occupy the position of a head nurse, I will be extremely cautious about making the decisions. Also, I will arrange staff meetings frequently to ask the staff about the difficulties they have or the insufficient expertise in some areas. It is necessary to know these facts in order to eliminate the possibility of a conflict. By learning what problems my subordinates have, I will be able to help them manage such issues.
I think that it would be a good idea to collect evidence about conflicts. Evidence-based practice is considered as the most effective approach to learning about specific cases. I believe that its role in conflict resolution should not be underestimated. Each hospital unit should discuss such cases and learn from them. By combining a variety of methods, it will be possible to avoid conflicts or minimize them so as to provide the best quality of care for customers and arrange a positive working atmosphere for nurses.
Champoux, J. E. (2017). Organizational behavior: Integrating individuals, groups, and organizations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Finkelman, A., & Kenner, C. (2016). Professional nursing concepts: Competencies for quality leadership (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.
Halperin, E. (2013). Emotion, emotion regulation, and conflict resolution. Emotion Review, 6(1), 68-76.
Iglesias, M. E. R., & Vallejo, R. B. B. (2012). Conflict resolution styles in the nursing profession. Contemporary Nurse, 43(1), 73-80.