Dealing with Job Conflict
An interesting and unusual paper about to be published in early January (2016) in the Iran Red Crescent Medical Journal (Yes we really do scour the journals from around the world!) looked at nurse’s experience of organisational or job conflict in hospitals within Iran. The researchers examined the experience of organisational conflict through the eyes of 19 nursing staff from Iranian hospitals. Before you start thinking ‘this has nothing to do with me’, the lessons from this study are really interesting, illuminating and useful for people in most organisations.
The researchers interviewed and observed the 19 nurses (10 of whom were female (56.25%) and 9 were male).
4 main areas of job conflict
What they found was that organisational or job conflict tended to come from four main categories of problem:
- Role interference or role conflict. This occurs where:
– People have multiple roles which don’t all fully align with each other.
– That the roles played in the organisation are having to occur and achieve their different aims concurrently,
– That there is not adequate time to carry out each of the expected roles to their satisfaction.
– Lastly role conflict occurs where the holder feels the balance of the roles they are expected to play are not in the balance they think they should be and that they have little or no control over the apportioning of time and or the ability to change the balance.
- Role ambiguity. There are two factors at play which contribute to role ambiguity and the sense of ‘split’ or conflict within the job.
– The first factor is job description ambiguity. This is where their job description is ambiguous and open to interpretation and that there is conflict in apportioning roles in terms of time and importance. For example I am expected to do this, this and this but
– there isn’t enough time to do them all and
– I am not entirely sure where the boundaries lie in each of the roles I have. When do I stop? I could do any one role full time.
– The second factor is decision making uncertainty. This means being uncertain as to who makes what decision, and having situations where management step in and change decisions or start making their decisions for them. There is a lack of clarity about what decisions are mine and which aren’t. Part of this conflict also comes from a sense of having limited authority to make decisions.
- Conflicting expectations. There are four factors at play here:
– Contradictory expectations, from clients (patients), management, leaders, other departments, and the leadership and not being able to reconcile them.
– Different role priorities from different actors.
– Inappropriate modelling, particularly from management and often from colleagues. This happens for example where a colleague is a work-a-holic and stays behind constantly, working late, creating the perceived expectation and pressure to conform to this standard.
- Forced role engagement. This occurs when there is inadequate staffing and people are forced to ‘over work’ to fill in.
Looking at these categories of conflict in the working environment, (maybe organisations the world over suffer from similar problems), they appear to me to be largely down to the management. Firstly recognising the issues and the affects of such working conditions, like burn-out, intention to leave and lowering of moral would be a good step. The effects go beyond these issues as the researchers point out. Organisational conflict increases turnover, reduces satisfaction but also impacts on work effectiveness, personal relationships both within and without work, the quality of work and increases the chance of inter-personal and internal conflict between the workers.
Whilst the paper offers only limited general advice for the management of organisational conflict the clarity of the categories of conflict within organisations do offer a very useful description of the conflict experienced in many organisations and should help to identify, diagnose and deal with these factors.
You never know what you might turn up in the quieter and more unusual corners of the 28,000 academic journals published every year! We keep our eye on most of them.
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Pishgooie, A.H., Rahimi, A. and Khaghanizadeh, M., 2016. Experiences of Iranian Nursing Faculty Members on Working in Conflict Climate. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 18(1).