Conflict has been an issue for man since the dawn of civilization. In today’s fast paced world conflict, especially in the workplace, is a frequent occurrence. When that workplace is a health care environment where lives are at stake, emotions run high and collaboration with many different disciplines is required conflict often becomes a prevalent part of everyday life. Conflicts in the workplace can lead to reduced morale, lowered productivity resulting in decreased patient care and can cause large scale confrontations (Whitworth 2008). In the field of nursing whether a conflict is with a peer, supervisor, physician, or a patient and their family, conflict management is a necessary skill.
It has been estimated in a study by the American Management Association that managers spend between 20% to as much as 50% of their times dealing with conflict among their employees (American Sentinel, 2012). When workplace conflicts are left unresolved they can lead to dissatisfaction, depression and other problems such as aggression and violence (Whitworth 2008). The negative, sometimes hostile, environment created by unresolved conflict has been recognized to be a hazard not only to staff, but also to patient care (The Joint Commission 2008).
In July, 2008 The Joint Commission found the problems resulting from unresolved conflict serious enough to address the issue with a Sentinel Event Alert. The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Alert Issue 40 states:
Intimidating and disruptive behaviors can foster medical errors, contribute to poor patient satisfaction and to preventable adverse outcomes, increase the cost of care, and cause qualified clinicians, administrators and managers to seek new positions in more professional environments. Safety and quality of patient care is dependent on teamwork, communication, and a collaborative work environment. To assure quality and to promote a culture of safety, health care organizations must address the problem of behaviors that threaten the performance of the health care team.
What is conflict? Even something as basic as a universal definition for the word conflict seems to vary from source to source. A literature review focusing on conflict defined it as “the interaction of interdependent people who perceive incompatibility and the possibility of interference from others as a result of this incompatibility” (Brinkert 2010). Often times the disagreement results not from a concrete difference, but rather a difference in perception (Ellis & Abbott 2012). One of the most important factors effecting conflict management is the resolution style used. The most often used tool for classifying how conflict is managed is the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (Iglesias & Vallejo 2012).
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) was originally developed by Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann in 1974 (Kilmann, 2013). The TKI assesses a person’s behavior when they are confronted with a...