Healthcare leaders must manage disputes quickly and decisively to maintain teamwork and morale. Due to individuals’ unique views, workplace conflicts occur commonly. When conflicts occur, healthcare managers help employees come to a mutual understanding, but sometimes a leader’s involvement in a conflict requires that an outside party intervene to move towards a resolution.
Conflict Takes Several Forms
Healthcare leaders spend 25 to 40 percent of their time managing conflict. As a result, conflict resolution is an essential leadership skill. Effective leaders manage these disputes quickly and productively. Conflicts occur for several reasons, such as workplace bullying, generation gaps and varying occupational perspectives.
Guiding parties in dispute to find consensus requires learned skills. Therefore, healthcare leaders prepare for these incidents with ongoing education. The following five tips help mangers resolve disputes.
One: Identify Participant Perspectives
Understanding the viewpoints of those on either side of a conflict is essential when working to resolve a disagreement.  Healthcare leaders must hear grievances with empathy, courage and humility and honestly consider their internal feelings about the conflict.
During disputes, anger is a natural defense mechanism. Before entering into mediation, all parties must acknowledge this and accept responsibility for their roles in the dispute.
Two: Suggest Alternatives
When resolving conflict, it is important to invite all stakeholders to seek a solution to the problem. Once all parties agree to meet, the participants must work together to identify the real issue. This is where the organization leader guides conflicting parties in eliminating unfounded conclusions and pointing out the facts. These observations must focus on circumstances rather than accountability so that the participants can discover solutions.
Three: Rebuild the Team
Handling conflicts in person is uncomfortable, but it is the most effective alternative.  Real-time information exchanges speed the resolution process and gives all involved parties the benefit of physical cues that helps everyone communicate with and understand each other. This meeting should take place where all parties will feel comfortable and when other responsibilities do not interfere with the process. If an in person meeting is not feasible, a phone call or teleconference is the next best alternative.
Four: Create a Buffer
Sometimes an organizational leader is so embroiled in a dispute that they cannot effectively deescalate the situation. This is when an empathetic, but neutral, third party may have to mediate the conflict. All parties must feel comfortable with the process and the individual managing this responsibility. The mediator’s job is to hear all points of view, and bring the dispute to a fair, voluntary resolution that offers a long-term solution and not a short-term fix.
Five: Foster Communication
Resolving conflicts requires clear communication. Once all parties truly understand each other’s perspectives, they are halfway to resolving the dispute. Individuals who work to fuel dissent cannot productively participate in this process. Organizational leaders must remind the participants to limit their input to facts. Sometimes, managers must put conflict resolution on hold when participants refuse to set their emotions aside. It is also important to consider the motives behind individual statements when assessing the facts.
Differing perspectives inevitably lead to disagreements. Leaders must evaluate the distinct circumstances that lead to conflicts. If left unchecked, a small disagreement can turn into a disruptive encounter. Healthcare leaders are responsible for managing the important task of keeping the talent pool focused on their primary mission – healing patients. To mediate conflicts, leaders maintain a calm demeanor and make sure not to assign judgment while steering the disputing parties towards agreement.
Healthcare leaders manage the inevitable disputes that occur in the workplace due to individual, differing viewpoints. Managers guide employees toward a resolution during these occasions and uphold the cohesiveness required to keep an institution running. Healthcare leaders must effectively resolve these matters, even if it means stepping aside and allowing a neutral party to intervene to recover peace caregiving setting.
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1. Sherman RO. Carefronting: An innovative approach to managing conflict. American Nurse Today. October 2012;7(10).