5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Savvy Nurse Managers

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According to Forbes Magazine,  managers spend between 25 and 40 percent of their time dealing with conflict. Helping your team to resolve conflict is not as difficult as one may think. Effective conflict resolution has been shown to relate to the safety of the patient. Therefore, not dealing with conflict in your unit may lead to unsafe patient care.

5 Styles of Conflict Resolution

An appreciation of conflict resolution styles is key to understanding the communication process. While the names may differ slightly, there are five major responsive approaches to managing conflicts.

There is no right or wrong conflict resolution style, and each conflict participant is capable of choosing the approach he or she deems most appropriate in any given situation.

It’s important for managers to understand each of these approaches to help parties resolve conflicts as they arise.

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Accommodating – helps preserve harmony. Accommodating is used when someone apologizes for being in the wrong, and it helps smooth over the situation. This approach emphasizes cooperation instead of assertiveness.  A person places his interests last and allows the other party to further her interests. The accommodating approach often occurs when a party is not significantly invested in securing a victory, because he does not perceive the alternative option as a significant threat.

Collaborating – Collaborating is the optimal way to manage conflict. Both parties come to the table with win-win attitudes. This process can be more complicated than the others because both parties are coming up with solutions that everyone can benefit from.

Compromising – often known as the situation ‘when everyone gives in a little’. Every party gives in a little to come to an agreement. While the emotional level might still be high, the compromise style sometimes results in interim solutions when a full resolution is not immediately possible. This is sometimes a good strategy to employ to prevent further escalation of the conflict.

Avoiding – While it may seem easy to avoid a conflict, it’s not recommended when you are a manager. Those who use this strategy are putting off situations which may be made worse by not addressing conflict immediately.  Avoiding conflict involves one of the conflicted parties avoiding communicating about or confronting the problem, hoping it will go away. By not participating in the problem-solving process, she is effectively removing herself from it.

Competing– Or sometimes known as confrontation…is also not an optimal way to resolve conflict. The goal of the competitor is to win.  In this style, the party is placing her desires above those of all others involved in the conflict. Assertiveness is the hallmark of this approach, and those employing this style of negotiation aim to address the conflict head-on. It might involve high levels of emotions as the parties establish positions in what can sometimes evolve into hostile communications.  A savvy manager is smart to remember that in most conflicts, the ultimate win is actually coming up with a solution to the problem!

2 Ways You Can Be A Better Mediating Manager

Conflict management is often an area many nurse managers find challenging. When choosing to help your staff with a conflict, be sure to listen to both sides of the story. Listening will help you decide what is a fair outcome for a resolution.

1. Open Communication 

Making open communication a high priority with your team, will help you engage in an open environment and assist in resolving conflict. Nursing units & departments are prone to conflict because of the fast paced environment. It can be chaotic at times, leading to poor communication.

2. Coach and Empower Your Team 

As the manager, it is important to empower your team with the tools to resolve conflict, especially when you’re not around. A hospital is open 24/7, but you cannot be there 24/7.  Role playing can help your team practice strategies and learn to resolve conflict in real time situations. Consider hosting small group sessions on conflict resolution to hear about strategies and practice putting the knowledge into action.

Understanding conflict resolution styles, using strategies like education and role-playing, will help you become a better manager, a better nurse and help your team be prepared to deliver the best care possible.

ReneeThompson_013_HRThanks so much for reading. Take care and stay connected!


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Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations that want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day. If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website www.reneethompsonspeaks.com.

Contact Renee today at renee@healthyworkforceinstitute.com to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

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3 thoughts on “5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Savvy Nurse Managers”

  1. I think this post resonates with so many different people. The thing that helps my team get through any conflict is open and effective communication. If done right communication is the most result oriented and eclectic solution to most our conflicts.
    An interesting read, keep up the good work Renee! 🙂

    1. Yes!! You are so right Shizza. Conflict is necessary for a team and organization to grow. However, it’s about being honest and respectful in how we communicate with each other! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for your kind words.

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