Individuals frequently tend to avoid conflict emergence at all costs to isolate themselves from the duty of resolving such situations in the future. However, it is of paramount importance to realize that the existence of conflicts serves as an integral constituent of a democratic society that facilitates changes and reforms through addressing conflicts (Harell, 2020). Thus, instead of emphasizing the ways of conflict elimination, modern social advocates should promote efficient education on the matter of productive conflict resolution. The present paper aims at analyzing a real-life example of a conflict in a workplace setting from the perspective of five major conflict resolution strategies: competing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising, and collaborating.
Definition of Conflict
Over decades, the notion of conflict has become deeply integrated into human consciousness. As a result, individuals no longer aim at finding an exhaustive definition of conflict, perceiving the phenomenon as “disagreement” or “a socially preconditioned process that should be averted.” Still, one of the most common explanations of an organizational conflict was presented in 1992 by Thomas, who identified conflict as “tension between team members as a result of real or perceived differences” (Zee & Hofhuis, 2018, p.1). Although such a definition is positive in terms of exhaustive inclusion criteria, the word “tension” predetermines a negative connotation to the concept, whereas addressing conflict in a timely manner may catalyze productive and beneficial changes within the organization. For this reason, my definition of conflict would look as follows:
- Conflict is a disagreement that arises within an organizational team as a result of different points of view or gaps in communication and has to be addressed and resolved by the organization’s management.
The hospital setting is rightfully considered one of the most challenging organizational contexts in terms of conflict emergence frequency. According to the researchers, hospital settings require a high level of interdisciplinary collaboration to achieve both professional and organizational goals (Pitsillidou et al., 2018). Moreover, the emotional strain healthcare professionals experience daily contributes to the emergence of disagreements and tension within the team.
A personal example of a conflict concerns the issue of miscommunication between the healthcare staff and hospital management. For months, nurses and physicians were unable to obtain access to the working schedules beforehand, as the management had no intention of listening to the employees’ concerns about the inability to plan their shifts and weekends. As a result, some employees worked overtime, whereas others did not get enough shifts and could not earn extra money. Every attempt of communication with hospital management resulted in the manifestation of ignorance and superiority of the latter. Moreover, it was evident that the job description and shift allocation favored Caucasian male employees. Eventually, almost half of the employees did not show up for their shift to draw the attention of management.
In the beginning, the hospital administration was extremely dissatisfied with the employees’ behavior. However, when a few employees started a dialogue on the matter of an ongoing communication gap that deteriorates team morale and productivity, the hospital manager was willing to listen to the team members and note their comments. After the discussion, the process of shift allocation was coordinated with the staff. Initially, such a resolution favored the employees, but they were still willing to gain more autonomy in terms of allocating work shifts, as they had quite good interpersonal communication within the team and were often willing to help each other in case of an emergency. The hospital management, in their turn, eventually started to abandon the newly introduced system due to their unwillingness to spend much time compromising and adjusting the schedules.
Conflict Resolution Strategies
The example provided earlier may be related to the compromising strategy, as both conflict parties were not fully satisfied with the solution, so the final decision was more of a short-term solution to avoid an irreversible point of conflict development. According to researchers, the 1970s were marked as a significant milestone in the sphere of organizational conflict management, as Thomas and Kilmann define the five major strategies of coping with conflicts (Qadir, 2020). To understand what could have been done better, it is necessary to address four other conflict resolution options.
In terms of this framework, each party prioritizes assertive behavior and does not want to compromise its vision of the situation. According to the researchers, such a strategy is a highly unproductive technique for addressing disagreements, as the evident issue is at risk of remaining unresolved unless one of the parties gives up their assertive attitude (Qadir, 2020). The strategy of competing would be highly inappropriate in a given setting due to an already accumulated level of dissatisfaction between the parties.
Such a strategy manifests unassertive and uncooperative behavior that frequently results in ignorance of the potential risks. Such a conflict resolution strategy should be applied in scenarios where a disagreement is likely to subside when ignored by the majority of employees (Qadir, 2020). In a given scenario, avoiding conflict would do nothing but escalate the employees’ concerns and feelings of disrespect from the administration. Thus, the approach itself is unacceptable in terms of dealing with a conflict that already disrupts the workflow and communication within the team.
Unlike avoiding, accommodating presupposes that the administration should explicitly declare their willingness to yield and accept the demands outlined by the medical staff. While seemingly this approach may be of great benefit for another party, especially when their concerns are justified and reasonable, accommodating tends to undermine the management’s reputation and authority in the long run (Qadir, 2020). Like compromising, this approach is regarded as a good immediate solution, yet its application in the future could be rather questionable.
The strategy of collaborating is frequently perceived as the most efficient conflict resolution approach, as it prioritizes compassion and cooperative behavior. In terms of this resolution scenario, it could have been possible for the administration to regard a long-term perspective of shift scheduling and allow for autonomy in terms of shift allocation while securing systemized supervision over the framework efficiency. Having analyzed all the models of conflict resolution methods, collaborating would have been the most efficient means of conflict elimination, with compromising being the second-best choice.
Once the subject of diversity in the workplace emerged at the beginning of the 21st century, the primary goal of professional training was the assimilation of employees from different cultural backgrounds. Nowadays, on the other hand, it is the flexibility in leadership that matters to the team. In the present example, the hospital administration was unconsciously drawing a thick line between white male employees and all the other staff members. As a result, the overwhelming majority of culturally diverse female employees felt oppressed and objectified, as they were not perceived as equally qualified professionals. Such manifestation of implicit diversity bias resulted in the emergence of a cultural gap managers were unwilling to bridge by acknowledging differences in values, cultures, and characteristics of the employees.
Harell, K. F. (2020). The value of conflict and disagreement in democratic teacher education. Democracy and Education, 28(1), 1-8. Web.
Pitsillidou, M., Farmakas, A., Noula, M., & Roupa, Z. (2018). Conflict management among health professionals in hospitals of Cyprus. Journal of Nursing Management, 26(8), 953-960.
Qadir, A. (2020). Resolving conflicts at workplace – a discourse, using Thomas-Kilmann instrument mode framework. Zenith International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 10(6), 28-46.
Van der Zee, K. I., & Hofhuis, J. (2018). Conflict management styles across cultures. In The international encyclopedia of intercultural communication. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.