Critical reflective paper on conflict management and negotiation in ICUs

Conflict management and negotiations

According to Marquis, Huston, (2008) they defines conflict as a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in values, attitudes, needs, beliefs. Conflict can also arise from past rivalries and personality differences and trying to negotiate before the timing is right or before needed information is available. In other words, Conflict occurs when there are two or more competing values, beliefs, opinions or responses to a single event.  The three types of conflict that are common at workplace include intrapersonal conflict that occurs when there is a conflict within oneself when one’s values or beliefs are contradicted by reality.

Secondly there is interpersonal conflict which is a conflict that emerges between two or more parties where the belief of one party opposes the beliefs of the other party (Brandt, Holt and Sullivan, 2001). The third type of conflict involves an intergroup conflict which is the conflict between two or more groups or teams within an organization. Apart from learning about conflict causes and types, I have also learnt about conflict management strategies which have proved to be very important.

In this regard, conflict management strategies such as Collaboration, Compromise, Competition, Accommodation and Avoidance are vital (Tyler-Evans and Evans, 2002). But I have noted that collaboration strategy prove to be the most appropriate in the sense that it involves matching concern for  one rival group's own interests with concern of the interests of other opposing group. The solution arrived at satisfies both parties fifty percent each, hence, help to build commitment and reduce bad feelings among the parties.

This has been a wonderful experience in my attempt to attain two aspects of management: leadership and conflict handling from the leader's perspective in critical care units (Marquis, Huston, 2008).  Moreover, learning of negotiation has enabled me to acquire fundamental principles that facilitate successful negotiations. For instance, while negotiating I’ll openly discuss interests rather than stated positions; I’ll concentrate on inventing options for satisfying interests. Thereafter, evaluation of options is necessary that leads to a written agreement and enhance commitment between the parties to ensure that each party to the conflict must be confident that the others will carry out their parts of the agreement.

The outcome of my learning is in terms of improved perception about conflict management and negotiations.  Most important aspect that have changed positively, is the discovery that conflicts can not be avoided in social settings like in critical care unit that involve diversified persons also reflect opinions, emotions, values, needs and perception diversity.  The fascinating aspect of it all is the value and usefulness derived from conflicts. As noted by Archibald (2003) conflict is necessary to address problems, help people recognize the benefits of differing opinions and bring about change to organizations based on the various positions and sources of conflict.

Furthermore, conflict enhances growth and innovation, new ways of thinking, and can bring about additional management options (Tyler-Evans and Evans, 2002). On the contrast unresolved conflict can cause decreased cohesion among the team members, distraction of individuals from their tasks, decreased productivity, increased costs through absenteeism, higher mediation costs, and Increase in stress in the workforce (Brandt, Holt and Sullivan, 2001).  Therefore, this positive perception change gives me deeper insight and I have confidence that I can effectively handle leadership challenges like conflict from the leader's perspective.

Working environment that regard to critical care units, leadership and conflict management are vital areas for the successful performance of the unit. The causes of conflict in critical care units result from financial pressures balance with the need to satisfy patients; scarce resources conflicting with the health care organization’s ability to meet the growing demand for quality services and social strain of the workers (Marquis, Huston, 2008).

Therefore, a practical approach to competencies for leadership principles and practices of conflict management are and negotiations are vital to critical care nurses.  Findings indicate that health care is in crisis due to preventable workplace conflict.  These preventable conflicts leads to avoidable costs resulting from conflict between people in the workplace who should and could work together cooperatively, this drive up the cost of care (Brahm, 2003). Therefore, this learning enables me to prepare for facilitating social competencies at critical care units in the country and world to minimize costs associated with avoidable conflicts.

Conflict at workplace has adverse effects such as difficult in retention of good employees particularly nurses and other direct patient-care providers, lead to job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and turnover.   For instance, the national average of voluntary resignations that result substantially from unresolved conflict accounts to over 65 percent. While the cost of replacing a specialty nurse is 156 percent of annual salary (College of Nurses of Ontario 2006). Therefore, the cost-benefit of retaining just one nurse by resolving a conflict is economical than replacing. This course helps me to gain better understanding of the sources and outcomes of conflict within nursing work environments that informs the prevention of such conflicts.

However, in order to understand well the application of the knowledge and skills gained, there is need to have a practical approach since practice make perfect. Some essential strategies to gain the practical competence in conflict resolution include group discussion with classmates and applying the skills to resolve conflicts and disagreements with our study group (Archibald, 2003).  This group setting correlates to the working environment of critical care nursing units. Fortunately, as a leader of my study group, it gives me an upper hand to even experience leadership perspective from nursing point of view.

Critical care units such as intensive care units (ICUs) are facilities within health care where substantial parts of hospital budgets are consumed. In addition to that, large quantities of human resources are allocated to these units; as a result, good management is vital for a successful, adequate and appropriate use of people and money allocated (College of Nurses of Ontario 2006). Therefore, management aspects cannot be overlooked. In order to enhance the usefulness of human and money resources allocated to critical care units of hospitals, leadership is a vital tool of design to be used as an avenue.

The knowledge about types of leadership according to Tyler-Evans and Evans (2002), gives me two types of situational leadership: task behavior and relationship behavior. In this regard, relationship behavior approach implies that the leader focuses on a good relationship with his or her team. This is accomplished through maintaining the personal relationship by communicating and listening, by providing emotional support, and by offering facilitating and supporting behavior. While on the other side task behavior implies that the leader is oriented towards the necessary tasks through organizing and defining the roles of the group and explains what activities are to be undertaken.

According to my analysis and synthesis, there is no one best form of leadership from these two types. Therefore, the option I have come up with is that as a leader is to match different style to conflict requirements and the context of the situation on the ground. This means that I may have to use different styles with different coworkers in order to bring collaboration, increase involvement and participation and also ensure authority be respected. Furthermore, my leadership shall be people centered and resource based.


In conclusion, the paper has reflected my attainment in relation to this course. The attainment involves key areas of general principle of conflict management and negotiations. As a prospective nurse leader I must develop and have strong, effective communication skills such as to be able to listen well and be aware of non-verbal communication. These are vital for managing conflict through establishing trust among staff to encourage open communication, remain  positive and focus on ‘what can be done’ rather than have a negative approach, identify various ways of solving the conflict, evaluate the conflict and it’s solution and use outside sources to assist with the resolution if necessary.

Importantly, this course has helped me to understand that healthcare organizations view conflict as an unavoidable aspect of organizational change. Therefore, managerial actions that minimize conflict at workplace are necessary.  These actions include: involving staff in the decision-making process, regular status reports on accomplishments and issues within the unit, reviewing job descriptions regularly and have regular staff meetings.

These actions shall enable the leadership and management to be aware of the current issues and future plans or needed changes. Acquisition of a systematic approach to conflict management and negotiation in five phases: analyzing the conflict, determining management strategy, pre-negotiation, negotiation, post-negotiation is remarkable.


Archibald, T. (2003) “Collective bargaining by nurses in Canadian health care: assessing recent trends and emerging claims”. Health Law Journal, vol.11, p.177 – 198.

Brahm, E. (2003). Conflict stages; Beyond Intractability: available at, Retrieved February 10, 2009

Brandt, M.A., Holt, J. & Sullivan, M. (2001) “How to make conflict work for you” Nursing

                       Management: vol. 32 (11), p.32 – 36.

College of Nurses of Ontario (2006), Conflict prevention and management: available at Retrieved on February 12, 2009

Marquis, B. & Huston, C. (2008), Leadership roles and management functions in nursing: Theory and application. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Tyler-Evans, M.E. and Evans, M.J (2002) “Conflict in healthcare organizations”: Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership. vol.15 (4), p.17 –20