Conflict Management & Resolution

by | Nov 1, 2019 | LabStore Highlights | 0 comments

Within any environment there can and most often is, some degree of conflict. Mild or severe, because we all have our own innate likes and dislikes, there are things that cause friction within our inner self. The cause of the conflict can range from a diversity of sources: an individual, your environment, a process, etc. These are all examples of external conflict, which is easy to recognize because it is something that causes you anxiety or discomfort. It is more tangible and direct and often associated with the workplace. Internal conflict is much more difficult to identify and assess, however, it is the type of conflict that must be managed to resolve any type of conflict in your life. You may not be able to change or have influence over an external conflict, but you can determine how you manage that conflict internally, and develop a healthy attitude and inner well-being to move on. An inability to manage a conflict eliminates any chance of resolving that conflict.

Within the Histopathology lab there are numerous external factors that can evoke conflict within the technologist. Work overload from insufficient staffing is a common cause where individuals are always rushing trying to carry the load of 2-3 techs. Cramped seating and workspace making it difficult to perform effectively. Ineffective management or leadership skills from the manager or supervisor resulting in poor relationships. Personal differences with co-workers. Unnatural work schedules (as in Night Shift) where fatigue and tiredness can cause short tempers. All of these are external factors that can induce conflict.

The image of the two individuals to the right is often perceived as the manager/supervisor (orange) aggressively interacting with the subordinate (blue). One is from a point of offensive attack and the other a point of defense/receiving. One is typically from a point of power and the other a point of submission, because they have no power. Sometimes it is the subordinate or employee that is rebellious against the manager/supervisor; either directly or indirectly. Attempts towards resolution must first begin with communication. The initial common response in the presence of conflict, especially with the subordinate, is withdrawal. This withdrawal is oftentimes mutual where both parties go into avoidance of each other and try to have as little contact as possible. This response may seem to be the most convenient and comfortable, even with the supervisor/manager, but nothing is resolved, and unfortunately with the right trigger, the conflict can spontaneous erupt into an explosive encounter or event. In either case both parties must be committed to some degree of compromise, and this can only come through both parties coming together and communicating their thoughts, feelings, and willingness to come from their respective position to a point in between.
The Conflict Resolution Process model illustrated here shows the common response to conflict at the workplace and in our personal lives. It begins between two people experiencing stress induced by feelings of hurt, anger, or some kind of anxiety from one person to another. Typically, one person is more dominate than the other, as in the supervisor/subordinate relationship. As previously mentioned, avoidance and withdrawal are the most comfortable immediate solutions. But as you can see in the lower portion of The Conflict Resolution Process the model, the two parties will remain stuck in their personal places of retreat and avoidance unless they come from their places of dominance or submission, to a place of compromise and integration. For the manager/supervisor, resisting is an unhealthy work relationship where the employee is not as productive as they could/would be in a healthy relationship. For the employee, it is healthier to be in a positive environment where there is mutual respect and communication. It becomes less of a job and more of a profession.
Deep conflict is not something easily resolved, especially when a person is convinced that they are right. Whether this is true, or it is just their perspective, the conflict remains. Being ‘right’ does not resolve conflict. How difficult it is for a supervisor/manager who is dealing with an employee that you have conflict with. On one hand, you have the power as the manager/supervisor, and have ways to coerce them into the desired behavior. But this has not resolved the conflict. How difficult is it for an employee who is dealing with a manager/supervisor who is determined to have their way and just won’t listen? You can remain silent, but this doesn’t resolve the conflict. The question of conflict resolution with both parties must be, ‘Am I determined to win, or to resolve this?’ ‘Do I want to conquer, or negotiate?’ That is a question that each person must ask themselves. It takes a strong manager/supervisor to understand that winning can be achieved through negotiation. Unless it is a blatant offense on issues such as policy, compliance, safety, etc., it is better to find a common place that both can agree upon. This way both parties win, still maintaining their own personal integrity and respect.

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Newkirk, WB, Brown, S., ‘Gold Standard of Leadership – Conflict Resolution’, Workshop in Professional Development, WB Newkirk Consulting, Lab Management Consultants, 2010.


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