This essay is about conflict resolution in the workplace. The author starts by explaining the concept of conflict and how prevalent it is in different organizations. An illustration of a typical workplace is provided involving a nurse, a patient and a supervisor. The narration is given of how a disgruntled patient arrived at the procedure room for administration of drugs but the pain led to a change of procedure. The patient declined to be attended by nursing, prompting him to call the supervisor. The supervisor tried to calm the patient but failed, as he did not work in a nursing sphere. Attempts to seek the help of a female nurse are frustrating for the supervisor, but the nurse defied and went ahead. The problem was solved. In addition, the essay highlights the types of conflict in the story, stages of the conflict and strategies to resolve it.
Conflict is defined as the behavior or actions intending to frustrate the achievement of goals of another person. There are various issues that lead to conflict in a work environment. Workplace conflicts are very common, as individuals pursue different interests when seeking to accomplish their tasks. The nursing profession is based on collaborative relationship between the nurse, colleagues and the patient. When two or more individuals look at a situation or an issue in different perspectives, the relationship between them can be compromised by conflict. Conflict is commonly referred to in a negative way but the experience of dealing with conflict can result to positive outcomes for the nursing community. The following is an example of conflict arising from role struggle, where a person intends to harass, neutralize, eliminate or inhibit the capacity of others to perform and the conflict can be resolved.
Conflict Resolution in Nursing
This case involves observation of a nurse in a care delivery setting and identifying the recurrent conflict that can negatively affect patient care delivery in future. In this patient care setting, there are various ways in which conflict is manifested. There is a conflict between the patient and the nurse on duty and another level of conflict between the nurse and the supervisor.
Details of What Transpired in the Narration
In the procedure room, an upset and disgruntled patient arrives. He was scheduled to receive care for angiographic projection with an intervention on the left lower extremity. Before the process begun, the patient groans in pain and requests for medication. The request for medication is granted, but there are a few things to be done before the medication is actually administered, such as patient identification and procedure. The nurse takes personal and medication details from the patient.
The first conflict arises when the patient is being transferred to the procedure table. He protests about the pain and asks to be given the pain medication. The nurse explains of the set of vitals that need to be obtained, like anxiolytic for calming the pain is not accepted as the patient yells out in pain. The nurse’s attempts to place the blood pressure cuffs, EKG electrodes or oxygen are highly resisted by the patient. The supervisor is called to the procedure room and requested to speak to the patient and calm him in order to have the procedure continue. The supervisor’s attempt, who is not a nurse, but a respiratory therapist (RT) to speak to the patient does not solve the problem.
The nurse request for a female nurse to be called to speak to the patient is dismissed by the supervisor and this forms the second conflict. The only female nurse present in the hospital was sitting at the computer but the supervisor denied seeing her and refused to go check on her. The supervisor denies the nurse of an opportunity to call the female nurse citing job abandonment if he leaves the procedure room. This happens despite the supervisor and two RTs presence in the procedure room with the patient. The male nurse defied the order and left to call the female patient requesting her to assist. The sight of the female face calmed and comforted the patient and gave the anxiolytic, so that the procedure could be started. The nurse of duty carried out the remaining procedures, while the patient was relaxed and later transferred to the recovery unit. The nurse later spoke with the supervisor and explained the rationale for having a female nurse assisting with care, as the only option. He also explained and made the supervisor aware that the patient may later state that the nurse touched him inappropriately, but that was the only way to provide patient centered care to a disgruntled patient.
Type(s) of Conflicts Identified
There are two types of conflicts identified in the illustration above. The first one is nurse-client conflict and the other is conflict with a colleague. In this case, I will concentrate on the conflict between the nurse and the supervisor. Conflicts among colleagues can be considered as a problem in the working environment because it can lead to antagonistic and passive-aggressive behaviors that may interfere with the therapeutic rapport between the nurse and the client. Such behaviors include horizontal violence and bullying. Nurses who can effectively handle the conflict demonstrate high level of respect for their patients, colleagues and the profession. The nurse defied orders not to leave the procedure room and went to check the female patient to assist in calming the patient, in order to start the medication. If the conflict remained unresolved, the patient’s condition would have worsened and leave the profession with far reaching effects that would ultimately influence every aspect of patient-care delivery in the hospital.
The tension identified between the nurse and the supervisor forms the basis of conflict. The supervisor threatened the nurse with disciplinary action for neglecting duties and abandoning the patient despite having a supervisor and two RTs with the patient. This action was a calculated move to frustrate the efforts of the nurse in achieving the goals of administering medicine to the disgruntled patient. According to Finkelman, this is the most common type of individual conflict in the workplace and it results to bigger problems between people. Interpersonal conflicts are at times caused by differences in personality, training, territorial concerns, control or loss. In this situation, the skills, training and approach between the nurse and the RTs may have been the biggest cause of individual differences between the nurse and the supervisor.
Four Stages of the Conflict
This is the stage in the organization when the conflict is anticipated. It exist whenever individuals in the organization have differences that bother one or the other but the differences are not big enough to ignite an action to alter the situation. Difference in power, control, values and interests are potential sparks to trigger conflicts’ occurrence. In this scenario, latent conflict is evidence when a supervisor from RT is appointed to oversee performance of a nurse. The difference in their mode of training, intervention process, skills and experience can cause conflict of interests.
This stage requires awareness and recognition that there exists conflict at a particular time. However, the conflict may not be discussed but can only be felt. At this stage, the management is made aware of the conflict, as a result of the complaints filed in the office. This stage can be identified in the illustration when nurse makes the supervisor aware of the problems involved in the treatment of the disgruntled patient.
This is the level at which individuals begin to develop a feeling of anxiety or anger. The staff members develop a feeling of stress due to the pressure or obstacles placed in their path of performing their duties. This stage is evident in this scenario because it can be represented by that dilemma when the nurse’s request to seek help of a female nurse is equated to desertion of duties.
This stage is the climax of the conflict and is characterized by solving the problem. The actions taken at this stage can be constructive or destructive to the organization or the individuals involved. For example, an individual can disregard some policies, ignore the conflict or provide an opportunity for discussion. The manifestation stage of the conflict in this case is when the nurse ignored orders from the supervisor and went out of the procedure room to seek the help of a female nurse. This action constructively solved the conflict and eased the ensuing tension in the room.
Strategies to Resolve the Conflict
In order to provide an effective solution to conflicts in the workplace, it is important to understand the psychological level of the problem and people involved. In most situations, the less fortunate, or aggrieved party is more aware of the conflict during the latency stage. The privileged party is often not aware of the existing conflict, since there are no adverse effects of the conflict in the beginning. Delegation of roles and responsibilities were not a cause of conflict in this case because the conflicting individuals were members of different professions.
The best strategy to solve the conflict between the nurses and the RT supervisor is to involve, engage and collaborate with the nurse leader. This means that the members of each profession will be free to follow the procedures and principles of their profession without interference. In situations where the rules of engagement appear to collide, the nurse leader and the RT supervisor would collaborate to find the best way to approach the problem. The rationale for selecting this strategy is to provide a free working environment for various professions involved in healthcare delivery. Any conflict in provision of service would lead to detrimental effects for the patient.
Conflicts in workplace are common and unavoidable and they take many forms. They exist in every organization and, in some cases, they reveal the effects of healthy exchange of ideas among people in different professions. However, counter-productive conflict can cause employee dissatisfaction, low productivity, and poor service to clients, as well as increase work-related stress. Managing conflict is an art that requires the management to engage all stakeholders as a normal part of improving relationship between the involved professionals.