Conflict Management: Strategies You Need to Know.

September 17, 2013

There are generally four types of interpersonal work conflicts and five strategies to solve them.

No matter where you work, the size of your radiology department, imaging center or radiology group, there will be occasions when conflict arises and must be dealt with.  When conflict happens, managers often see the conflict to be the result of uncooperative staff.  However, this usually is not the case.  Conflict typically results from a lack of understanding about a particular situation.   When dealing with conflict, I have found the following information extremely valuable.

There are four general sources of interpersonal conflict in the work place, and the source of the conflict must be determined.    

1. Personal Differences. This results from the difference in backgrounds of individuals.  This would include education, culture, and experience.

2. Informational Deficiency. This results from lack of information, misinformation, or misunderstanding of information.

3. Role Incompatibility. This occurs as a result of differing views by staff members regarding their goals and responsibilities.  This is commonly seen in organizations with multiple departments, such as sales, marketing, and compliance, where the goals and responsibilities differ by department.  As a result the different departments prioritize company organizational goals differently, causing interpersonal conflict.

4. Environmental Stress. This source of conflict arises when there is lack of consistency and uncertainty in an employee’s life.   Rapid changes in schedules, policies, job duties, staffing, or uncertainty of employment result in environmental stress.

When dealing with the four sources of conflict there are five typical conflict approaches. It is important to note no single approach is effective for every type of conflict.

1. Forcing. This response is seen as blatant use of supervisory authority and creates feelings of resentment and hostility with employees. This approach is used when there is a sense of urgency, such as making sure a new employee follows rules of compliance or safety.  

2. Accommodating. This response satisfies the needs of others while neglecting the needs of the supervisor. Overuse of this approach can result in being taken advantage of in exchange for maintaining a friendly relationship rather than dealing with the issue in an effective manner.  Use the accommodating response when the issues are not important and the problem must be resolved quickly.

3. Avoiding. This approach dodges the conflict itself and neglects the interests of the participants.   Repeated use of this response causes nothing but frustration because the causes of the conflict never get resolved. Use of this response happens when supervisory interest in an issue is not great and there is not a strong reason to get involved.

4. Compromising. This response is used in an effort to obtain an agreement satisfactory to both parties. Beware of overusing this approach or using it in the wrong situation as employees will come to the determination that you are more interested in making concessions than resolving the conflict.  Use the compromising approach when there are no simple solutions to the issue and the issue is complicated and moderately important.

5. Collaboration.  This response attempts to satisfy the needs of both parties.  Collaboration encourages the involved individuals to focus on the issues rather than personalities.  Thus, this response places an emphasis on resolving the conflict while preserving the personal relationships as much as possible.  Use this response when time is not a critical factor and it is necessary to maintain a long-term supportive relationship when the issues are extremely important.

Dealing with conflict is a difficult task.  I hope this information helps you navigate the next conflict you face.