Conflict Management in Hospitals


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Conflict Management in Hospitals

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Conflict Management in Hospitals

  1. 1. Conflict Management in Hospitals - By Bachchu Kailash Kain1i Hospital remains highly individualistic in its function as a complex organisation because of the intensely personal and critical nature of its work. The individual patient and his or her care remains the elemental reason for the existence of the hospital and health care professionals. People with different skills, level of knowledge and social status work in hospital. Highly skilled and technical personnel to unskilled and illiterate personnel also work in hospital set up. Every staff member in hospital has his/her own importance for the efficient and effective functioning of any hospital. Hospital management has to face many conflicting situations in the hospital between its staff members and various units. Conflict is an inevitable experience in health care professionals’ life, and all members in the hospital feel the effects of conflict. Indeed, in a sense health care professionals’ life consists of a carefully orchestrated conflict, so mush so that one of the classic functions of a hospital management is to ensure coordination, which includes promoting cooperation and minimizing conflict. Health care professionals must understand the phenomenon of conflict within organisation so that they can make it acceptable, predictable, and therefore manageable. Conflict must be accepted as an inevitable part of all group effort. The causes of conflict are located primarily in the organisational structure, with its system of authority, roles, and specialization. The clash of personal styles of interaction can be analyzed so as to deal more effectively with such clashes. Conflict can be accepted as an element of change, a positive catalyst for continual challenge to the organisation. Aggression may be accepted and challenged to foster survival. If conflict is not channeled and controlled, it may 1 Bachchu Kailash Kaini, PhD Fellow, University of Greenwich and Clinical Governance Manager, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London. Email:,
  2. 2. have negative effects that impede the growth of both the individual and the organisation. In certain situations, conflict may clarify relationships, effect change, and define organisational territories or jurisdictions. When there has been as integrative solution, resulting from open review of all points of view, agreement is strengthened and morale heightened. Conflict tends to energize and organisation, forcing it to keep alert, to plan and anticipate change, and to serve clients in more effective ways. If conflict is handled properly it can be a source of energy and creativity, leading to generation of new ideas and effective evaluation of existing ideas. Hence, it produces energy, but like nuclear fission conflict can have both good and bad consequences. The keys to success are judgement and style of doing the right things at the right time in the right way. It is possible to learn better ways to manage conflicts. Effectiveness in managing the conflict depends on how well people understand the underlying dynamics of the conflict. The aim of creative conflict resolution is problem solving that allows both parties to achieve their objectives. The basic goal is a win-win approach rather than a win-lose approach. Effective relationships at work depend on people's behavior; however it is the unseen baggage that governs whether that behavior is constructive and positively helpful towards the relationship or whether it is destructive both on a personal and organisational basis. Understanding some of the reasons why people behave in the way that they do, as well as the impact of the organisational environment and the culture on the way that individuals behave in team, can provide a useful framework to allow conflict to be handled in a positive and constructive way. Conflict is not an objective, tangible phenomenon; rather, it exists in the minds of the people who are party to it. Only its manifestations, such as brooding, arguing, or fighting are objectively real. To manage conflict, therefore, one needs to empathize, that is, to understand the situation as it is seen by the key actors
  3. 3. involved. It is the process of showing understanding for the other's experience. Some people call this putting yourself in the other person's shoes. An important element of conflict management is persuasion, which may well involve getting participants to rethink their current views so their perspective on the situation will facilitate reconciliation rather than divisiveness. An interpersonal form of conflict occurs mostly due to personal dislikes or personality differences. If the differences of opinion between individuals are only about task related matters, the conflict can be constructed as technical rather than in interpersonal conflict. It is not easy to demarcate whether the conflict between two parties is based on manifest rational factors or the hidden personal factors. One must know when to resolve conflict and when to stimulate it if one is to avoids its potentially disruptive effects. When a potentially harmful conflict situation exists, it is better to engage in conflict resolution. Conflicts needs to be resolved when it causes major disruptions and absorbs time and effort that could be used more productively. Communication plays a vital role in managing interpersonal conflicts. Basic communication goal in a crisis involves controlling aggressive and needscentered interaction patterns. It means moving away from a focus on satisfying overwhelming personal needs for safety or respect toward a focus on personal interests. Oral communication, however, is not the only source of conflict; nonverbal behavior is often a more potent indicator of how we truly feel. Several communication strategies work well in focusing the discussion on substantive issues. It is better to deal first with emotion and second with substance. Take time, think and act gently to come into the desired result for the better resolution of conflict. Making the decision to confront generally proves productive and worth the effort. Well-planned confrontations work out much better than unplanned ones.
  4. 4. If you want to resolve the conflict, ask yourself following questions and it will help to resolve conflicts. Do you have strategies for solving disputes? Do you sweep problems under the carpet? Do you deny that there is any conflict? Are you too 'nice' to each other? Do you know how to negotiate skillfully? Do you ever bring in a 'third party' to help settle differences or would that be seen as a sign of failure? The greater the perceived value of what may be lost, the harder it is to manage a conflict. Both sides should come to a certain point to compromise while settling the conflict. Win-win situation is desired in each and every situation. Nevertheless, it is not practical in the real life.