Traditionally, conflict has been viewed as a destructive force to be ignored or silenced; today, many are redefining conflict as an opportunity. Once conflict is approached as a cooperative effort, nurses and other healthcare professionals can restructure trust to enhance professional relationships. By understanding the dynamics of negotiation in areas such as leadership, power, and conflict management, healthcare professionals will improve the quality of their professional practice, relationships and their working environment. Article Author Diana Ward Collins, RN BSN Legal Nurse Network This article presents an overview of conflict resolution by introducing: * Conflict management concepts and principles
* Strategies for effective negotiation
* Useful techniques for conflict management
Healthcare organizations, although extremely complex, have as their mission nothing less than improving the health of patients and their communities. Unfortunately, this lofty goal can be lost amid the conflicting agendas and value systems of individuals and disciplines within the healthcare system. This is, understandably, a frustration for many healthcare professionals. Working Together
Professionals who are, or should be, working together to provide healthcare services for patients must develop a set of skills for effective communication. These skills include: * Conflict management
* Consensus-building through collaboration
These essential skills not only improve patient care, but are vital for personal, professional, and organizational success. Collaboration—one method of conflict management—is a process by which people and groups work together to achieve a common goal. Collaboration works best when each person involved takes responsibility for his or her own working relationships and quality patient services. For example, imagine there is insufficient staff on a unit. By working collaboratively, nurses can prioritize patient care needs, pool available resources, and ultimately match those resources to achieve the mutually defined common goal of quality patient care. Negotiation--Problems can arise, however, when healthcare professionals disagree on how to achieve that goal. This calls for another method for conflict management—negotiation. During negotiation, healthcare professionals must engage in honest communication, adjusting their differences to eventually reach consensus. Negotiation works best when the people involved in a conflict tell each other their goals, needs, and wants.(1) Individuals can then adapt their needs and wants so that the common goal can be achieved. These processes take time to learn and practice. Even so, every healthcare professional has the power and responsibility to “step up to the plate” and negotiate disputes or differences of opinion, even while organizational decisions are being made. For some individuals, this might represent a new approach for professionally relating to others. Yet taking a chance—possibly even a risk—can be liberating and empowering. Why Negotiate?
We negotiate with others every day, usually without even thinking about it. Occasionally an impasse does occur, and then we realize that finding a solution isn’t always easy. This is especially true when people perceive the same thing differently, or if we are not sure what action is expected from us or required of another. Examples abound. Do any of these sound familiar?
These situations can be emotionally draining. And, over time, our reactions to these situations intensify, creating an atmosphere of: * Tension
* Polarization of staff
Negative emotions and feelings start to affect a work group. For example, we begin to see different staff members as belonging to two or more work groups pitted against each other defining themselves as “we-they” in their communications.
Once “we-they” positioning occurs, effective...
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