Role of Conflict in the Workplace

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Conflict is an inevitability in the workplace. Conflict is not always a negative as it can lead to positive change. Even the process of conflict resolution has possibility to bring workforces together to work for positive change. In this paper I will identify three types of conflict, the four stages of conflict, methods of conflict resolution and a personal experience with conflict in my workplace. There are three types of conflict as identified by Finkelman and these are individual, interpersonal and intergroup and/or organizational (2016). Individual conflict is defined as a role conflict where there is a conflict revolving around roles. Either a disagreement over roles or team members acting critical of another member for what they perceive as not performing activities that they feel are part of the team's roles when it may not be (Finkelman, 2016). Interpersonal conflict is between people and can be due to disparities in each other's personas. These differences can lead to conflict due to perceived competition or established boundaries feeling threatened (Finkelman, 2016).

An example of this could be the hiring of a new team member being hired with more experience than current employees and an established team member could feel her position as a resource on the unit is in jeopardy if team members begin to reach out to the new team member rather than her. This feeling can lead to discord between the two co-workers. The third type of conflict described by Finkelman is intergroup/organizational and this transpires when there is disputes among teams (2016). This can occur because of a misunderstanding of one teams' role, rivalry between teams, or a lack of leadership which can be on the team level or organizational level (Finkelman, 2016).

An example of this type of conflict could be that the cardiovascular intensive care nurse wants to position the radiology technicians board behind her patients back to avoid the Swan-Ganz from becoming mispositioned. The radiology technician may feel that it is their job and that they perform this function in the other intensive care units without interference. They may also feel as if the nurse doesn't know exactly how to position the board to obtain the entire field. According to Alessandra there are four stages of conflict Latent, Perceived, felt and manifest (2006).

The latent stage of conflict occurs with the perception of change this can be due to changes in the work environment such as a staff cutback, wage freezes, a new project, or organizational changes. The perceived stage happens when the staff realize that there is a problem. An example of perceived conflict would be staff members becoming aware of a staff member being unprofessional with a patient and the staff having to involve management for conflict resolution. The third stage is the felt stage and this is marked by the apprehension felt by the members.

One can understand these feeling if we emphasize with either a manager in the uncomfortable position of confronting and employee or put ourselves in the position of the staff member being confronted by the manager. The final stage according to Alessandra and our text is the manifest stage. This stage is notable in that it is where the factions act on the conflict. This can be constructive such as identifying the problem and encouraging each side to participate in coming up with resolutions or it can be adverse with each side attempting to undermine the other this could be with overt acts or through subterfuge. When deciding on a strategy to use in conflict resolution you need to be aware of the styles of conflict resolution. According to Rahim the framework for conflict resolution in organizations was first theorized by Mary P. Follet in 1926 and she laid out three ways to handle conflict domination, compromise and integration (2016). She also listed minor means for handling conflict such as avoidance and suppression. This framework has been built on since then and Rahim states that there are five categories stemming from a combination of the two resolution motivations which are the concern for self and the concern for others (2016). The five styles according to Rahim are described in the following list.

  1. Integrating Style. The concern for others is high, and the concern for self is high. The participants work together and collaborate on discovering the root cause of the conflict and determining the best course of action to be taken to resolve the issues.
  2. Obliging Style. The importance here is placed on the other. It involves one party's capitulation to the other. This can be done for several reasons such as obedience or big-heartedness.
  3. Dominating Style. The value here is placed on the self with little concern for the other. The type of person that uses this style attempts to impose his will on those under him on the organizational chart.
  4. Avoiding Style. This style cares little for the self or the other. This is seen in someone who likes to simply ignore the problem or have others take care of it for them.
  5. Compromising Style. The focus of this style is to give and take and the concern for self as well as others is balanced. There are often concessions made by both sides.

My conflict resolution will focus on a recent happening at the hospital I work at. In the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) patients are received from the operating room (OR) into their room while still being under anesthesia and on a ventilator. It is not uncommon for these patients to be hemodynamically unstable with wildly fluctuating blood pressures and heart rates. In this condition there are many medications left at the bedside for possibly lifesaving administration if needed. It was a common practice in this unit but not one I was accustomed to. I have worked in a CVICU for the past 14 years and it had always been the practice of other facilities to remove this bag as soon as the OR team left the room and any other meds had to be obtained emergently through a locked drawer or a code cart. I was uncomfortable with this system of having these potentially dangerous drugs laying around other syringes that looked similar and the potential danger this presented to the patient. I am a little humiliated to say that at first, I just kept my head down and did not speak up preferring to use the avoidance style mentioned above. This is not a good strategy in this instance because it could lead to patient harm. I had mentioned this in our online forum for this class and was asked what I did about it and the truth was I had only spoken to one coworker who informed me that she was uncomfortable as well.

After the comments I decided to talk to others and found a day shift nurse was also uncomfortable with this process. Our concerns where for the patients and our staff as we are a rural area and are forced to hire new grads to the unit which is also not a practice of most CVICUs. The possibility of a mistake is compounded by the fact that this young people are learning on the fly in a very stressful environment that sometimes relies on quick decisions. If someone push a syringe of high concentrated Levophed or Phenylephrine to a patient thinking it was a flush they would be devastated and possible leave the profession over an easily avoidable mistake. I think it was important to note that the three nurses uncomfortable with this practice represented most of the years on the job for the unit. As a united front we were able to bring our concerns to our manager and changes were made. Our unit functions as a post anesthesia unit (PACU) for the first one to four hours after surgery and as of our meeting with the manager it was determined that as soon as PACU time was over the medications were to be disposed of and the oncoming nurse was to audit the room to make sure we on in compliance.

During PACU time the meds are kept close by but in a drawer on the other side of the room so you have to intentionally obtain it and you know why you are reaching for it. This system is working for now but, it did teach me a lesson that avoiding conflict is not the best path. Luckily no one was hurt in the time I avoided voicing my concerns. Working as a team we were able to come up with a solution that protects the patients and the staff. In summary I have found that my own strategy was more of a head in the sand approach in the past as there have been issues that I have not mentioned to avoid conflict. Avoidance is not an effective strategy and conflict can be positive if addressed the right way, Conflict can bring a team, unit, even an organization together to come up with solutions. Of course, not all conflict is going to do this, and some may be difficult such as someone causing harm to a patient. The strategies explored in this assignment have given me more tools so that even in a difficult situation I can look out for my patients as well as staff.

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Role Of Conflict In The Workplace. (2019, Aug 16). Retrieved June 20, 2024 , from

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