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5 Ways to Manage Conflict in the Nursing Workplace

A nurse rests her head against some files in a moment of frustrationPractical tips and strategies for managing workplace conflict; a guide for people in nursing management and other healthcare systems management positions.

If you're inclined to avoid messy workplace arguments, it may be time to rethink your approach. Here's a simple guide with suggestions on how to best deal with workplace disputes and dilemmas.

While most would agree that it would be nice to avoid conflict in the workplace, it’s an unfortunate certainty that we will likely all be faced with a workplace conflict at some point in our careers. International research indicates that 85 percent of employees encounter workplace conflict to some degree, while 36 percent of U.S. employees spend a significant amount of their time at work managing disputes.1

Nurse executives, nurse managers, and other nursing management staff are unfortunately not immune from these statistics. However, smart strategies and creative solutions can be a huge help in managing and avoiding conflict, and in some cases can assist in drawing something positive out of a seemingly negative situation.

Hire the Right People

It sounds like simple advice – and it is. It’s also highly effective. Hiring people, especially in healthcare management and leadership roles who demonstrate a strong skillset in resolving and managing conflict is the first step in the right direction.

Effective healthcare systems management relies on hiring the right people for your culture and workplace. When hiring employees, consider whether they have a proven history of efficiency and teamwork. Ask questions around what they would do in specific situations involving conflict, and listen to the way they describe how they have managed similar occurrences they’ve dealt with in the past.

Provide Clarity around Job Requirements

Many workplace squabbles break out over who is doing (or not doing) a particular task. In order to eliminate or reduce this source of conflict, provide your team members with  clear, written frameworks and job descriptions for their roles. This will help to ensure that all members of your workplace know the requirements, expectations, and responsibilities for the job they are doing.

Build a Team

Nearly half of all workplace conflicts are a result of personality clashes and warring egos.2 We have all worked with the loud colleague, the snappy colleague, the lazy colleague, the ambitious colleague… and so it goes on.

Simple training in understanding personality types and the impact of this on communication and working style, can promote a workplace culture of understanding.3 By equipping your employees with knowledge on how to understand and work with personality types outside of their own, you will not only increase effectiveness in workplace communication, but also will provide strategies to aid in reducing potential conflict between team members with opposing personality types.

Work on Stress

The next two highest reported causes of workplace conflict are stress and heavy workloads.4

Emotional intelligence expert, Dr. Jeanne Segal, says that stress can interfere with a person’s ability to accurately read another person's non-verbal communication, hear what someone is really saying, and communicate their own needs clearly.5

Including stress management techniques such as meditation as part of your workplace training can not only help in minimizing workplace conflict, but may also lead to other positive effects such as boosting the overall productivity of your team.

Confront and Embrace Conflict

It’s important to be aware that ignoring the issue of workplace conflict won’t make it go away. Instead, focus on identifying practical ways to deal with and learn from the conflict itself. Always encourage respect among your team and be mindful of the right questions to ask when a challenging situation may arise.

Questions to ask might include

  • Is there an obvious solution?
  • What does the conflict say about larger workplace issues?
  • Are there other factors underlying the apparent source of the conflict?
  • What can we learn from the conflict at an individual, team, and organizational  level?

While it may sound like a significant effort to implement these strategies, research indicates that the average employee loses 2.8 hours each week as a result of workplace conflict.6 Imagine the possibilities if you could reclaim some of those lost hours?

Considering a move into nursing management? Loyola University New Orleans may be just the place to make it happen. Find out more about the advanced education available today.