As a chief nursing officer, I use conflict resolution techniques to manage difficult conversations with employees. When staff members become emotional or angry, I offer an empathetic ear and remind myself of what not to do in these situations.
Healthcare leaders should respond with poise and diplomacy when responding to intense reactions from employees during one-on-one conversations. For example, let’s say a staff member’s chronic absence and tardiness has brought her to your office for a hard talk. As she describes personal problems that are causing her to miss work, she starts to cry.
What not to do:
What to do:
What you might say: “I understand that you are having some personal problems that are affecting your ability to work, and we have an employee assistance program that may help you. I also want you to discuss this issue with Human Resources to see if there is additional support available. (This is especially important if the problem would qualify the employee for Family and Medical Leave Act benefits or other resources).
“The bottom line is we must have someone who can come to work and be consistently on time. Our responsibility is caring for our patients, so please use the resources we have in place for you to help you resolve this situation.”
See related article: Create a Safe Space for Confrontation
Unchecked tension between staff members can be a significant drain on staff productivity. For example, let’s say everyone on the floor knows that the nurse manager and a certain staff nurse are not getting along.
What not to do:
What you might say:
Ignoring staff conflict and thorny workplace scenarios will make matters worse. Healthcare leaders who approach difficult situations with evenhandedness and legal issues in mind can maintain and even increase staff productivity and satisfaction, while reducing costly staff turnover at the same time.
Margaret Pearce, RN, PhD, is chief nursing officer for the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics and assistant dean of clinical affairs at the University of Utah’s College of Nursing in Salt Lake City.
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