Workplace Conflict Resolution

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One of the easiest ways of identifying workplace conflict is to take the opportunity to review exit interview data submitted by terminating employees. The old adage of people leave managers, not companies is true is some situations; however, people will also leave organizations due to differences in work styles. These disputes lead to conflict and employees begin to miss work and often times it is because they want to avoid their co-workers and their on-going disagreements. This dynamic has begun to surface in many of our nursing units, specifically with our PCA’s (Patient Care Assistants). The termination rate of PCA’s within their first year of employment, due to absenteeism, has ranged from one to five per month, over the last calendar year. It has become necessary to develop options for addressing this issue through the design of dispute resolution (DSD) processes. Immediate resolution of their conflict will increase workplace morale, reduce turnover and liability costs associated with potential litigation.

The Conflict

A targeted improvement is necessary to reduce the attendance occurrences in the first year of employment for PCA’s. The increased turnover has begun to influence the care of patients - including patient safety and the ability to discharge patients in a timely manner. An initial data review, has revealed that multiple PCA’s have been involuntarily terminated for excessive absences, during their first 365 days of employment. The organization’s current time and attendance policy allows for a four-step disciplinary process for unscheduled absences. This includes coaching, verbal counseling, written reprimand and suspension – all in advance of employment termination.

When drilling into PCA exit interview data, more than 90% of the PCA respondents indicated that their excessive absenteeism was in relation to disputes with the RN’s. Upon a deeper dive, they indicated that these absences were to avoid co-workers and their on-going disagreements. Of the comments collected, several emulated tactics that mirrored workplace bullying. Of important note, this type of behavior can also begin to permeate into other staff members’ behaviors, as those who are not absent, are often responsible for picking up additional tasks and responsibilities for those who are absent, from the workplace. This trajectory will lead to disengaged employees and low workplace morale.

The needs assessment conducted generated several opportunities for removing barriers to resolve this conflict. These included:

-Cultural perception that RN position is more value-based than PCA;

-Stakeholder identification is nurse managers and directors;

-Designation of HR staff to act as Employee Advocate for PCA’s; and

-On-going monitoring of absenteeism rates and turnover of PCA’s

Of utmost importance is our DON’s (Director of Nursing) sincerity to bring about positive cultural and procedural changes to the organization (Raines, 2013) following the successful implementation, evaluation and diffusion phases of a DSD process.

Designing a Dispute System

My research has indicated that this is an interest-based dispute, whereas, resolution will produce a satisfying and sustainable closure to conflict within the workplace setting (Colquitt, Conlon, Wesson, Porter & Ng. 2001). The disputing systems to be developed will point to the values that are representative of our organization’s culture – Be Compassionate, Be Present, Be Empowered, Be Collaborative and Be Accountable.

Peer Review Panel

Our first DSD implementation will be the construction of a formalized and orderly mechanism for conflict resolution – a peer review process. This type of DSD reflects our organization’s commitment to professional and business-like behavior with core values and standards of performance. A peer review option promotes trust and understanding, as well as, fairness and consistency to resolution of workplace conflict. In addition, the intended effect is to increase employee trust in, and use of dispute resolution procedures, by providing a final decision-maker who is viewed as more independent of management and more favorable to the employee perspective in disputes (Colvin, A. 2002).

The peer review process will provide the individual the opportunity to align with an employee advocate. This employee advocate will review, investigate and assist the employee in the preparation of their presentation to the peer reviewers. This structure allows for a validated process that will listen to the complaint ask, consider the options and help to resolve the workplace conflict. The employee can choose to not be represented by the Employee Advocate if they so choose. The peer review panel responsible for reviewing the issues presented by the employee, and their Employee Advocate (if applicable), will consist of three peers and two managers from the healthcare system. These members are chosen randomly from volunteers who agree to take a training workshop about peer review (Winston Resources, 2013). The members will discuss each aspect of the case in confidentiality and vote by secret ballot (Human Resources Terms, 2018). Each member must agree and approve the outcome. In addition, the peer review panel is responsible for making a final and binding decision.

Complaint Procedure

The secondary DSD tool our organization will implement, to address complaints of victimization, will be a formalized complaint procedure. This process will also be impartial, prompt and timely, confidential and fair to those who choose to utilize this conflict resolution technique. Employees should use this DSD option without fear of retaliation to assist with peer disagreements and/or contested supervisory disciplinary actions.

While most complaints are informal and can be tackled with one’s direct supervisor, if they are not resolved, an employee may submit a Complaint Procedure form to the Human Resources office. Following receipt of the submitted complaint, a human resources representative completes an examination, and that investigation includes the following –

-Collecting full details of alleged incident(s) – date/time/place/persons involved

-Interviews with all involved; responses to interview requests are mandatory

-Review evidence for likeness to repetitive conflicts with parties involved

Upon completion of the examination, the human resources team member who conducted the investigation will recommend an outcome to the CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer). The CHRO has been designated by the health system’s CEO to be the final arbiter in the complaint system and the decision will be considered final and binding.

The parties receive advisement of all decisions, which could include, but are not limited to - counseling, disciplinary action, additional training or no further action. The employee’s departmental manager will also receive notification of the final determination.


So that we may properly address the terminations of PCA’s through straightforward processes, we have selected both a peer review process and a complaint procedure. Our organization strongly believes that both methods provide a fair and just resolution to day-to-day disagreements and promotes and encourages two-way communication between employees. It is of the utmost importance that we address conflict with care. Each manager will be educated on these DSD tools so that disgruntled employees do not become disengaged, make critical care mistakes impacting a patient’s welfare and/or resign and file a discrimination claim. 

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Workplace Conflict Resolution. (2021, Apr 04). Retrieved November 30, 2023 , from

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