Discussion Response – Conflict in workplace

***in a well-developed paragraph (300–350), provide referenced support to share conflict resolution strategies that could have been effective in the situation your peer described.****

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Conflict is a naturally-occurring, inevitable part of human interaction. When managed effectively, conflict stimulates creativity and innovation, leading to change and positive outcomes. When managed ineffectively, unresolved conflict often leads to resentment and dysfunctional behavior (Huber, 2018; OACETT, 2015). In this post, I describe a situation in which conflict existed in my professional nursing career. I then analyze the factors that contributed to the conflict, and discuss how the nurse leader’s response influenced the conflict.

As a new graduate RN, I found myself in conflict with my preceptor. My preceptor had an outgoing, extroverted, Type B personality, while I had a shy, introverted, Type A personality. The differences in our personalities created tension. Another factor that added to our interpersonal conflict was communication. The way in which my preceptor used non-verbal communication, including eye rolls or snide remarks, left me feeling disregarded and intimidated. Her eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures were perceived negatively. As a result, at times I sought out advice and assistance from other staff on the unit, too intimidated to confront my preceptor. This nonverbal action of creating space between the two of us frustrated my preceptor, who claimed I did not listen to her or trust her. My preceptor and I were in conflict on a relational level. That is, there was tension in the way in which we related to one another (Northouse, 2018; OACETT, 2015). Perhaps our relational conflict was due to issues of esteem. As Northouse (2018) describes, human beings desire to feel respected and useful through interactions with others. Perhaps my preceptor felt insignificant or disrespected when I did not turn to her for guidance. At the same time, our interactions left me with feelings of low self-esteem. Our relational conflict may also have stemmed from issues of affiliation, since I desired to feel cared for and supported by my preceptor, yet our interactions lacked warmth and affection.

When the relational conflict between my preceptor and myself was brought to the attention of the unit’s nurse manager, the nurse manager did not take a proactive approach in addressing the conflict. She suggested that we have a conversation about how our behaviors and actions were impacting our professional relationship. However, she did not actively facilitate this conversation, and it did not occur. In an attempt to resolve the conflict, I ignored the remarks made by my preceptor and chose not to confront her. I remained silent. According to Northouse (2018), the avoidance style of handling conflict can be counterproductive, creating feelings of frustration, irritation, and anxiety while leaving the problem unresolved. Such feelings often lead to stress and further conflict. According to Huber (2018), unresolved conflict can lead to bullying and other dysfunctional behaviors. This is what happened after I came off orientation. I developed feelings of anxiety and stress whenever I worked the same shift as my former preceptor, and the behaviors observed during the orientation period continued. Such behaviors, which were not recognized or managed in a timely manner, lead to incivility and horizontal violence (HV). Recent studies suggest that the avoidance style of managing conflict is common in healthcare. For instance, through a conflict management education intervention for 49 ICU healthcare providers, White et al. (2020) determined that the most frequent conflict resolution style utilized by participants was avoidance (32%). Also, in a mixed methods study of 76 nurses from two city hospitals in the Northeastern United States, analyzing horizontal violence (HV) and response to such behavior, Bloom (2019) reported that out of the 67.9% of participants who had experienced HV, 76.2% walked away, and 58.6% remained silent. In this study, 77.3% of respondents reported that manager awareness and support was the most helpful strategy in reducing HV, followed by education in the workplace (69.3%). Interesting, White et al. (2020) determined that participant knowledge and perception of conflict significantly increased following a conflict management education intervention (p < 0.001 and p = 0.004, respectively). Since unresolved conflict can escalate into HV, which is harmful to both workplace culture and patient care, it is imperative that nurses are taught how to implement effective conflict resolution, through education on the factors that contribute to conflict, as well as conflict management strategies.

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