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Conflict Resolution Case Study Analysis

Overview: The healthcare providers market has become very competitive and the bo
ard of Directors of a large medical organization (HMO XYZ) wants providers (Doct
ors) to see patients every 15 minutes. They have stipulated that the Doctors do
a complete job of caring for the patient and documenting to support high level r
eimbursement, which management claims will help the hospital remain solvent. The
provider’s on the other hand claim that they cannot do their job effectively if t
hey have to push patients through in 15 minutes. The providers felts that their
feedback was not solicitated and this has led to dissatisfaction, frustration an
d griping among them. The providers’ have also complained to the patients about th
is issue and this has led to higher patient dissatisfaction.
The issues:
a. Competitive marketplace
b. Managements arbitrary stipulation of Doctors needing to see patients every 15
min
c. Doctors feeling not part of the team
d. Dissatisfaction, frustration and griping
e. Patient dissatisfaction
Problems:
Major – Hospital profitability; Doctor Dissatisfaction, Patient Dissatisfaction; L
ow employee morale; Poor service
Minor – Employee frustration, Griping, Time wasted on rumours
Tying theory to the issue:
Mullins (1999) suggests that good management and leadership helps to develop tea
mwork and the integration of individuals and groups with organizational goals. H
owever, the board of directors’ management style demonstrated an inability to lead
and work with the providers. It appears they did not call for an initial meetin
g with the providers, conduct a feasibility study or discuss with them individua
lly before setting the guidelines and expectations. Instead the Board of Directo
rs displayed an autocratic leadership style where there were no consultative pro
cesses and management alone was involved in decision making (Mullins 1999). Clea
rly this management style not only failed to gain employee commitment to meeting
organizational goals but also underpinned many of the problems that have since
occurred.
Deutsch (2000) states that “Most conflicts involve a mix of cooperative and compet
itive motives,” and has developed a theory of cooperation and competition in order
to better understand conflict processes and resolutions. As per Deutsch (2000),
a key element in understanding cooperation/competition is the type of goal inte
rdependence found between the involved parties. Parties goals can be positively
interdependent--success correlating with success, or failure with failure. Thes
e situations tend to yield cooperative relationships where the parties have a wi
n-win orientation. In the above case, management needs to ensure that their reco
mmendation to the Doctors is a win-win scenario. The management team needs to be
able to communicate to the Doctors that to keep the hospital solvent, the 15min
per patient rule needs to be enforced and seek their feedback as to how it can
be done.
As per Deutsch (2000), co-operative relationships display a number of positive c
haracteristics, including more effective communication and coordination, open an
d friendly attitudes and a sense of mutuality. In the above scenario, the manage
ment team needs to develop a co-operative and collaborative relationship with th
e Doctors by building effective communication channels rather than Competitive p
rocesses which tend to yield the inverse, negative effects: obstructed communica
tion, inability to coordinate activities, suspicion and a lack of self-confidenc
e which has been happening at the hospital.
Deutsch s research "suggests that constructive processes of conflict resolution
are similar to cooperative processes of problem solving, and destructive process
es of conflict resolution are similar to competitive processes."(p. 27) and he i
dentifies some of the implications that this theory of cooperation and competiti
on has for our understanding of conflict, for conflict management and conflict r
esolution. A cooperative orientation on the part of the Management & Doctors wil
l facilitate constructive resolution of a conflict. Constructive resolution is a
lso more likely when the parties can reframe their understanding of their goals
and conflict, coming to see their respective goals as positively interdependent
and the conflict as a joint problem. Constructive conflict resolution rests on t
he very basic values of reciprocity, human equality, human fallibility, shared c
ommunity, and nonviolence. As these values are widely shared, they can provide c
ommon ground between the otherwise starkly opposed parties (Management & Doctors
).
Krauss, 2000 suggests “The dialogic model” which views communication as a cooperativ
e, collaborative process. Meaning arises from the communicative situation, and
can only be understood within that context. This model, unlike the others, tre
ats the listener as an active participant in the creation of a shared understand
ing. "Active listeners raise questions, clarify ambiguous declarations, and tak
e great pains to ensure that they and their counterpart have the same understand
ing of what has been said."(p.140) Principle five is: Be an active listener. I
n conflict situations, principle six suggests "focus initially on establishing c
onditions that allow effective communication to occur; the cooperation that comm
unication requires, once established, may generalize to other contexts."(p. 141)
In the above scenario, management could have avoided dissatisfaction and distru
st by adopting the “Dialogic Model”. Instead of creating dissention and poor custome
r service, they could have initiated better communication which would have led t
o collaboration and cooperation. By treating the Doctors as active participants
on the issue of “getting higher reimbursement”, management would have had partners w
ho would have contributed to the solution.
Solution:
Communication and management were two major issues identified in this case study
. Potential solutions to improve the communication issue could be:
Involve providers in decision making process.
Advantages: It is important that all members of an organizational team, however
low in the hierarchy, are consulted regarding proposed changes to operations and
guidelines. Staff input into changes need to be factored into any fiscal decisi
ons as their practical experience provides management with valuable knowledge an
d information regarding implementation issues an indeed the feasibility of any c
hanges. Further, consultation therefore allows collective ownership of any chang
es and hence increases commitment to making changes work.
Disadvantages: A possible disadvantage is that consultation requires substantial
time commitment. Personnel need to be paid for time spent in meetings and there
fore can incur costs. Also, open consultation requires tolerance and the ability
to manage conflict from all stakeholders. This can be “difficult” and can take cons
iderable time to develop in an organization.
Recommendations:
Communication
• Consultation
• Meetings
Leadership
• Team building
• Participative leadership style
References:
Morton Deutsch. "Cooperation and Competition." Morton Deutsch and Peter T. Colem
an, eds., The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, 2000; www.be
yondintractability.org/booksummary
Peter T. Coleman. "Power and Conflict." Morton Deutsch and Peter T. Coleman, eds
., The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, 2000, pp. 108-130;
www.beyondintractability.org/booksummary
Robert M. Krauss and Ezequiel Morsella. "Communication and Conflict." Morton Deu
tsch and Peter T. Coleman, eds., The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and
Practice, 2000, pp. 131-143; www.beyondintractability.org/booksummary
Mullins, J. (1999) Management and Organizational Behaviour