Conflict Resolution

In social and work life, conflict cannot be completely eliminated. Instead, leaders must be prepared to actively take the role of conflict resolution in an organization. If conflict is resolved early and effectively, a department stands a higher chance of increasing its performance and increase cohesion among staffs. The five major conflict management strategies comprise of compromising, collaboration, avoidance, competition and accommodation. This paper seeks to establish how effectively nurse leaders employ these strategies towards conflict resolution between their staff and determine effective ways which can be used to improve this efficiency.

Conflict arises when one person or group disagrees with the ideas, behaviors, values or feelings of another group or individual. It often breaks down communication hence limiting the performance of an organization (Pinho, & Albuquerque, 2013). Whenever important differences arise, conflict resolution comes in not just to resolve the differences but also to facilitate change towards constructive and equitable relationships. It is therefore learned in various disciplines as it is believed that it can help in developing a positive group identity and function. However, to be effective in conflict resolution, a leader must be willing to stand out as a fair person and take the role of counseling whenever the need arises.

In the nursing industry, conflict may arise from a variety of issues including nurse authority, stress, space, defiant behavior, values, beliefs, goals among others. Stressors include exclusion from decision making processes, limited responsibility, failure to obtain support from leaders, coping with technological change, and rising performance expectations. Diversity may also contribute to conflict in the form of behaviors, by affecting communication hence influencing performance and interaction (Al-Hamdan, Shukri & Anthony, 2010).

The five major conflict resolution strategies serve to resolve all these forms of conflict. A good leader therefore identifies the best means for resolving conflict while causing minimal hurt to all individuals. Different strategies are more effective in resolving different issues. A leader should however be able to apply most of these strategies to be effective in conflict resolution. If conflict is not resolved, it could lead to it being detrimental to the way patients are handled (Al-Hamdan, Shukri & Anthony, 2010). An issue that stands unresolved often becomes an obstacle to customer service and delivery in the industry.

In a study by Al-Hamdan, Shukri & Anthony (2010), questionnaires were given to various nurse leaders with the intention of identifying the strategies of conflict resolution that were employed by various nurses. The response was that of 86 % with 271 returning their questionnaires. In this study, it was discovered that nurse leaders incorporated all five major strategies of conflict resolution into their leadership. It was also found that they mostly employed collaboration followed closely by compromising, accommodating, competition, and avoidance in that order.

According to that study, it is the role of every nurse to manage conflict so as to promote personal growth and provide an environment for proper patient care. Leaders on the other hand should not get worried by the mere presence of conflict but be ready to deal with it as effectively as possible hence reaching resolutions. Sometimes a leader serves a role of not just resolving conflict, but also identifying where conflict lurks and attending to it without hurting positive relationships. This is especially so in situations where conflict is unreported. In such cases, nurses may choose to keep quiet about conflict that exists between them for various reasons. First, one may fear to report conflict for fear of disciplinary action being taken upon them. Second, others may opt to report issues because they will to resolve them through other means. Finally, while conflict still exists, certain personnel may assume that it no longer exists. The need to resolve such issues is real as it still affects how work is done within the hospital.

However, reports show that avoidance is the most common method that leaders use to deal with this issue. In a study conducted in Greece to determine how such cases were resolved, 62% of participants showed that avoidance was preferred over collaboration (Pinho, & Albuquerque, 2013; Yi-Feng, 2014). This is a show of inefficiency on the part of nurse leaders in the use of methods conflict resolution methods. It can however be resolved by encouraging a teamwork culture in a hospital to enable nurses and physicians to work better towards resolving each other’s conflict. This way, leaders will be in a better position to approach nurses about issues that nurses want to handle off the book. It will also enable nurses to involve their leaders more in their conflicts since they believe the conflict involves the leader as well.

The major variables that affect how nurse leaders deal with conflict are demographic in nature. More senior workers seem to use collaborative strategies to resolve conflict. They also tend to use avoidance and accommodating strategies less. Nurse Managers who are more educated also shun avoidance as a way of resolving conflict. Leaders who have been in the same position for longer periods are less collaborative. It has also been discovered that women compromise more than men (Chappell, & Willis, 2013; Yi-Feng, 2014). There are also cases where the cultural orientations of nurses tend to play a role in the way they resolve conflict. It is however universal that regardless of the gender, age, nationality, culture or experience, collaborative methods is the most favored while avoidance is least utilized. This is however in contrast to the studies employed in the US. In the US, no study has shown collaborative strategy to be favored.

Recent studies have shown that conflict in the nursing industry is costly. More nurses tend to show absenteeism, burnout, and turnout when faced with a conflict within their organization. Positive effects have also been seen where conflict is promptly and effectively resolved. According to various studies, collaborative method of conflict resolution is found to promote team work while competition often leads to poor performance.

In a study carried out by Brinkert (2011), it was discovered that nurse leaders do not have sufficient knowledge of how to resolve conflict professionally. Instead, they more often than not use life skills rather than strategic methods to resolve conflict. The study shows that intervention to the leadership systems in the nursing industry by giving further training to leaders on conflict resolution leads to more positive results.

The study also shows a need for more specialized training depending on the type of conflict that is most frequent to those under the leadership of a specific nurse leader. Often, nurse leaders show signs of inability to act beyond certain limits in their role in conflict resolution.  Training enables leaders learn how to go beyond this point by either using the right skills or referring the cases to other persons where reasonable to resolve the conflict. This can help to resolve conflict with a higher frequency of efficiency than it does currently.

Schmalenberg and Kramer note that nurses view managers to be more effective on various grounds. These include ability to resolve conflict constructively, ability to act as a bridge between the various departments of the hospital and the ability to provide both positive and negative feedback to them. It is therefore evident that nurses value a leader who is able to resolve conflict both among nurses themselves as well as between nurses and physicians.

The number of nurses who regard their nurse leaders to be effective in conflict resolution ranges around 60% (Boschert, 2010; Pinho, & Albuquerque, 2013). This implies that only slightly above half of the nurses felt that their leaders resolved conflicts constructively. The worst scenario however shows that about 9% of all nurses had transferred from their departments with their leaders (Kaitelidou, Kontogianni, Galanis, Siskou, Mallidou, Pavlakis, & Liaropoulos, 2012). This shows that while leaders were effective in resolving conflict between others, they found it harder to resolve conflict that involved them.

Nursing often comes with a lot of conflict. They however are very poor at managing conflict amongst themselves. The main reason cited as to why nurses have difficulty is that they have no training whatsoever on how to deal with conflict (Moisoglou, Panagiotis, Galanis, Siskou, Maniadakis, & Kaitelidou, 2014). If such nurses therefore end up becoming nurse leaders, they are likely to experience difficult dealing with conflict within the industry. The most feasible way to deal with such situations is to have nurse education incorporate at least basic training on how to deal with conflict.

Lack of training before promotion, as noted above,  to the position of nurse leader often causes inefficiency in conflict resolution in the nursing industry. While nurses are often not armed with the training necessary to resolve conflict, they are later placed in a position where it is a daily scenario. Often, these nurses themselves are burdened by the task and the stress associated with this task may take hold of them and make them ineffective and unreliable even in trained tasks.

In conclusion, nurses’ leaders are more effective in resolving conflict that does not involve them. Over sixty percent of nurses consider their leaders to be effective in resolving conflict. The number can be and should be improved by employing all available mechanisms. Nurses who consider their leader to be unfair in conflict resolution, have a higher probability of transferring to other departments. The probability of transferring from the hospital is however much lower. Conflict is approached differently by different nurses. Various demographic factors however affect how they different issues. Gender, time of service, nationality and leadership position are the most conspicuous factors. The probable reason why this is so, is because difference societies have different values and preferences. Nurses also show a tendency to avoid certain cases if they think that such cases are beyond their capacity to resolve. Training these leaders can help to increase their capacity to resolve issues and increase their effectiveness in conflict resolution. Enhancing a culture of teamwork will also nurses to discuss issues more openly hence providing them with a platform for resolution.


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Moisoglou, I., Panagiotis, P., Galanis, P., Siskou, O., Maniadakis, N., & Kaitelidou, D. (2014). Conflict Management in a Greek Public Hospital: Collaboration or Avoidance. International Journal Of Caring Sciences, 7(1), 75.

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