Conflict situations are impossible to avoid in any settings. Some people even consider disagreements as a positive trend since they can lead to significant changes and help to resolve the misunderstandings between the individuals or groups. Most commonly, conflicts occur in busy work environments when there are many employees each of whom has a personal view on the situation and wants his or her opinion to be counted. In healthcare settings, conflicts are particularly dangerous since they impact not only the workers but also the patients. Therefore, it is crucial for hospital managers to know the types of disputes, their possible causes, and conflict resolution strategies. Predicting a difficult situation is better than dealing with the adverse outcomes.
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Description of an Unresolved Conflict
Recently, an unpleasant conflict situation happened in the hospital department where I work. Because it impacted several people, lasted for a long time, and led to adverse outcomes, I consider the conflict unresolved. The type of the conflict was intrapersonal. There was a nurse, Anna T., who could not cope with her duties because she worked in two places, and her shifts had been recently changed. She only had two hours to get from one job to the other, and there was no time for sleep at all. Anna frequently felt exhausted and depressed. She could not manage her duties properly but was afraid to talk to a nursing leader.
Anna was worried that the hospital administration would reduce her working hours, which she could not afford to happen. She was raising two children by herself, and she desperately needed money. One day, when it was Anna’s turn to do the rounds, she was not seen in the wards. Patients started complaining and said things like, “Oh, that must be her shift again,” “She is so unfriendly and irresponsible,” “I know that nurse. She removed my catheter too late last week.” Meanwhile, I knew that Anna had always been a diligent employee, and it was sad to hear such things about her. When I went to look for her, I found her sleeping at a table at the end of the corridor. She was so tired that she did not even lie down on the couch.
The conflict may be considered unresolved because of its outcome: the nurse was overworked, and her constant tiredness prevented her from fulfilling her duties in a proper way. For several weeks, Anna had been trying to manage her situation, but she failed to do so. The conflict was intrapersonal because Anna did not share her problem with anyone, which led to uneasiness and complicated the situation.
The Four Stages of Conflict
The four stages of conflict are latent, perceived, felt, and manifest (Chitale, Mohanty, & Dubey, 2013). In Anna’s case, the latent phase was when her shifts had been changed at one of the hospitals where she worked. She did not realize it at first, but such a considerable change in her schedule was bound to influence her performance. At the stage of perceived conflict, Anna became aware of the stressful situation in which she had appeared. However, she did not share her feelings with anyone. The conflict was in the third phase – felt – when I noticed it. Anna’s situation became so difficult that she started neglecting some of her duties. It was impossible not to notice that something was wrong. The nurse’s behavior could not remain unnoticed because the patients started complaining about her irresponsibility. The fourth stage of conflict is manifest. In the described case, the conflict did not reach that phase. Manifest conflict would have been attained if Anna had talked to a nurse manager and tried to change her schedule.
Delegation was not an issue in the conflict. No one assigned Anna any new duties. She was just having difficulty coping with the usual tasks.
Strategies for Conflict Resolution
While conflicts are inevitable, nursing managers need to be aware of the most successful strategies for their resolution. It is much better to manage the conflict as soon as it is noticed than delaying the decisions, which only makes the situation worse (Finkelman & Kenner, 2016). In order to find a resolution to this case, it is necessary to collaborate with the nursing manager of the department. Rosenstein, Dinklin, and Munro (2014) emphasize that in the healthcare system, respect for each employee is of utmost importance. Therefore, I believe that a possible solution to the discussed conflict might be telling the nursing manager about Anna’s situation and asking her to reconsider the schedule for this employee. Wright, Mohr, and Sinclair (2013) remark that irresponsibility of one person may irritate other workers, which may lead to the emergence of other conflicts. Therefore, it is crucial to find the best solution as soon as possible. According to Iglesias and Vallejo (2012), compromising is the most frequently preferred style of conflict resolution employed in nursing. I think that this approach would suit Anna’s case best of all.
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The nursing manager should talk to Anna and ask her about the problem. While the nurse should have approached the management representative earlier, it is still possible to minimize the negative outcomes of the conflict. The nursing manager should explain to the employee that she should not have kept the situation to herself but share it with the management team. If Anna had done so, she would have avoided the intrapersonal conflict and would not have caused inconveniences to the patients. Moreover, the hospital’s reputation would not have suffered. Thus, I think that compromising is the best solution in this case. As soon as the nursing manager adjusts Anna’s schedule, the nurse will be able to perform her duties at the highest level and will not feel any discomfort or depression.
In order to avoid similar situations in the future, several lessons should be learned from this experience. First of all, I realized how important it is to support one’s colleagues and communicate with them. If I had known about Anna’s difficulties and her fear to talk to the manager, I could have persuaded her that such a decision was the best one. Also, I should have probably talked to the nursing manager as soon as I noticed Anna’s problem. Finally, the management of the hospital department should arrange meetings with the staff where each employee could express their greatest concerns. If Anna had a possibility to explain her situation, the nursing manager might not have changed the schedule for her.
Conflicts at work are unavoidable, but each person in the team should do their best to find the best ways of resolving them. If everyone acts as a part of a mechanism, the possibility of disagreements will be minimized. As a result, everyone will benefit from such an approach.
Chitale, A. K., Mohanty, R. P., & Dubey, N. R. (2013). Organizational behaviour: Texts and cases. Delhi, India: PHI Learning Private Limited.
Finkelman, A., & Kenner, C. (2016). Professional nursing concepts: Competencies for quality leadership (3rd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.
Iglesias, M. E. R., & Vallejo, R. B. B. (2012). Conflict resolution styles in the nursing profession. Contemporary Nurse, 43(1), 73-80.
Rosenstein, A. H., Dinklin, S. P., & Munro, J. (2014). Conflict resolution: Unlocking the key to success. Nursing Management, 45(10), 34-39.
Wright, R. R., Mohr, C. D., & Sinclair, R. R. (2013). Conflict on the treatment floor: An investigation of interpersonal conflict experienced by nurses. Journal of Research in Nursing, 19(1), 26-37.