Marion Blackwell, NP, a nurse practitioner, was finishing her work after a long day at the medical practice of Owen Andersen, MD, an allergist. The practice had just converted from paper records to electronic health records, and there was an unusual degree of anxiety and confusion in the air. The practice included 2 registered nurses (RNs), 2 licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and 2 clerical staff, and only one of those 6 was really "on board" with the new record system. All of the clinical staff carried portable computers from patient room to patient room during a transition period while permanent work stations were being installed. There were several occasions where results of in-house laboratory tests, such as spirometry (which measures the volume and flow of air during inhalation and exhalation) and records of allergy shot administration were not entered into the electronic record because a nurse had left a portable computer in another room or had technical problems with a computer. Nurses were sometimes duplicating entries of test results because they were unsure who was responsible for entering the results. The clerical staff members were having trouble locating electronic records for many patients due to electronic "filing" bugs, particularly for patients who had changed their last names over time. Most patient appointments were running late as a result. One of the clerical staff members told Ms. Blackwell that they should lengthen the time slots for routine appointments, at least until the new system was working more smoothly.
In the past, Dr. Andersen had not been particularly interested in hearing complaints from the staff. His personal style in facing adversity was stoical, and Ms. Blackwell guessed that Dr. Andersen likely preferred to just "plow ahead." Ms. Blackwell had a good working relationship with Dr. Andersen, but she couldn't decide whether to push him to take the time to "air out" the problems the team was having with the new system.
As with all social activity, teamwork processes commonly are fraught with conflict or with opportunities for conflict. In Chapter 6, effective teams are described as surfacing and processing conflict when appropriate. In Chapter 7, team members are said to need competencies in constructively addressing conflicts with other teammates and in facilitating team management of conflicts they observe.
Conflict resolution refers to the process of ending a conflict. Conflict management is a broader term, referring to optimal use of conflict to move the team forward toward its goals. Conflict management does not necessarily imply conflict resolution. In fact, conflict management sometimes means stimulating productive conflict, in addition to or instead of focusing on resolution. In this chapter, we use the term conflict management rather than conflict resolution. Conflict management "involves designing effective macro-level strategies to minimize the dysfunctions of conflict and enhancing the constructive functions of conflict in order to enhance learning and effectiveness…" (Rahim, 2002, p. 208). ...