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5 Conflict Management Strategies Nurses Might Use

At Walden University, the required reading assignment “Understanding Conflict and Conflict Management” offers MSN nursing students valuable strategies for handling disputes.

Becoming skilled at facing and resolving conflict is essential to success in any nursing career—from family nurse practitioner to chief nursing officer. Left unresolved, conflict can sap morale, fragment teams, and depress productivity. In fact, it’s estimated that conflict costs U.S. businesses $359 billion annually in lost time and productivity.1

Fortunately, when earning an RN to MSN online, you will learn tested strategies for working through difficult situations. In Interprofessional Organizational and Systems Leadership, a course in Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing degree program, students are assigned the article “Understanding Conflict and Conflict Management” by Scott Williams as required reading. In his concise but impactful article, Williams outlines the five main approaches to conflict:2

5 Conflict Management Strategies Nurses Might Use

Conflict Management Strategies

There is a menu of strategies we can choose from when in conflict situations:

  • Forcing: Using formal authority or other power that you possess to satisfy your concerns without regard to the concerns of the party that you are in conflict with.
  • Accommodating: Allowing the other party to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own.
  • Avoiding: Not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it.
  • Compromising: Attempting to resolve a conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties, but completely satisfactory to neither.
  • Collaborating: Cooperating with the other party to understand their concerns and expressing your own concerns in an effort to find a mutually and completely satisfactory solution (win-win).

Research on conflict management styles has found that each of us tends to use one or two of the above five strategies more than the others. For instance, some people predominantly use collaborating when in interpersonal conflict situations. In other words, although there are five different ways to handle conflicts, such a person is more likely to collaborate than they are to force, accommodate, avoid, or compromise.

There are many advantages to using a collaborating strategy to handle interpersonal conflict situations. Collaborating with the other party promotes creative problem-solving, and it's a way of fostering mutual respect and rapport.

However, collaborating takes time, and many conflict situations are either very urgent or too trivial to justify the time it takes to collaborate. There are many conflict situations that should be handled with one of the other four conflict management strategies rather than collaboration. Managers who are very skilled at conflict management are able to (a) understand interpersonal conflict situations and (b) use the appropriate conflict management strategy for each situation.

Do you recognize your conflict management approaches from those that Williams lists above? As a nursing school student in Walden’s RN to MSN degree program, you’ll explore these and other workplace issues in the course Interprofessional Organizational and Systems Leadership.

A master’s in nursing online from Walden University can prepare you for advancement or to move into a new phase of your nursing career. Walden offers eight specializations for master’s degree in nursing students. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Family Nurse Practitioner specialization will lead you to a wide array of career options in family practice, public health departments, neonatology, and more. In 2017, nursing salaries for nursing practitioners were a median $110,930 a year.3 An MSN degree with a nurse executive specialization may point you to a nurse manager role, where you can most directly impact the healthcare experience of patients and their families. Advance to positions such as chief nursing officer, head nurse, or director of nursing. Medical and health services managers saw median salaries of $98,350 in 2017.4

Each of Walden’s MSN program specializations can inform and equip you to improve patient outcomes, lead through conflict, and confidently face other challenges that may come your way. Pick the specialization that’s right for you and launch your nursing career in an exciting new direction.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

Walden curriculum source:

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,