Interpersonal Communication Challenges in Healthcare Management

Scenario: Gender, cultural, and generational differences add to the challenges of interpersonal communication, especially when mixed in a stressful healthcare environment. Many times the conflict progresses and may involve some level of bullying. You recently graduated from an RN-to-DNP program, you belong to the millennial generation (also called Generation Y), and you were just promoted to Director of Critical Care Services. It feels like you have been in school forever, but you still managed to work 20-30 hours/week as a charge nurse on a busy cardiovascular (CV) step-down unit throughout school.

The Nurse Manager from your CV-ICU, who is a female and belongs to the Baby Boomer generation, has informed you she is closing four beds for the night shift due to inadequate staffing levels. When you object to her plan, she states, “You don’t know what you are talking about; this is what is done when you don’t have enough staff.”

You present the staffing dilemma to your Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), who is a male and also belongs to the Baby Boomer generation. The CNO responds by stating, “Your nurse manager’s solution is not an option. I hired you for this job because of your education, clinical experience, and ability to bring new ideas to the department. Closing beds is not an option; figure it out.”


Read the Scenario above, and then answer the questions below:
What is the source of this conflict?
What type of conflict does this represent?
Apply the best resolution strategy to address the staffing issue with your nurse manager.
What is the best response and course of action to the statement made by your CNO to “figure it out.”?
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Interpersonal Communication Challenges in Healthcare Management

Effective communication is crucial in healthcare management to ensure optimal patient care and staff satisfaction. However, cultural, generational, and gender differences can introduce challenges to interpersonal interactions, especially under stressful conditions (Kutney-Lee et al., 2016). This paper will analyze a scenario involving a conflict between a millennial Director and a baby boomer Nurse Manager over staffing issues. Potential sources of conflict and resolution strategies will be discussed.
Sources of Conflict
The primary source of conflict in this scenario stems from differences in management approach and problem-solving style between the millennial Director and baby boomer Nurse Manager (Cennamo & Gardner, 2008). As the newer generation, millennials tend to value collaboration and open-mindedness, while baby boomers emphasize hierarchy and experience (Benson & Brown, 2020). Additionally, the fast-paced healthcare environment exacerbates tensions when stressful staffing decisions must be made.
Type of Conflict
This scenario represents a task conflict, as the Director and Nurse Manager disagree over the appropriate solution to the operational problem of inadequate staffing (de Wit et al., 2013). While task conflicts can stimulate new ideas, they risk escalating into damaging personal attacks if not resolved constructively.
Resolution Strategy
The best strategy is for the Director to request a respectful meeting with the Nurse Manager to understand her perspective and brainstorm alternative solutions together (Thomas, 1992). Applying interest-based bargaining techniques like active listening, identifying shared goals, and focusing on interests rather than positions could help reach a mutually agreeable plan (Fisher et al., 2011). Compromise may involve limiting beds temporarily while exploring options like floating staff or agency nurses. Open communication and appreciation of different viewpoints can facilitate cooperation.
Response to CNO
In response to the CNO’s directive, the Director should acknowledge the challenge but express confidence that through collaborative problem-solving, a viable solution can be found to ensure high-quality patient care without closing beds (Kutney-Lee et al., 2016). An action plan should be developed involving all stakeholders to carefully assess unit-level factors, resource availability, and contingency preparations to maintain safe staffing under stressful conditions. Periodic updates to leadership would maintain accountability.
Navigating interpersonal conflicts in healthcare requires understanding different perspectives and finding common ground through respectful dialogue. With open communication and appreciation of generational differences, even difficult staffing issues can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
Benson, J., & Brown, M. (2020). Generations in the workplace: Similarities and differences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(18), 6671.
Cennamo, L., & Gardner, D. (2008). Generational differences in work values, outcomes and person-organisation values fit. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(8), 891–906.
de Wit, F. R., Jehn, K. A., & Scheepers, D. (2013). Task conflict, information processing, and decision-making: The damaging effect of relationship conflict. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 122(2), 177–189.
Fisher, R., Ury, W. L., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes: Negotiating agreement without giving in (3rd ed.). Penguin Books.
Kutney-Lee, A., Wu, E. S., Sloane, D. M., & Aiken, L. H. (2013). Changes in hospital nurse work environments and nurse job outcomes: An analysis of panel data. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 50(2), 195–201.
Thomas, K. W. (1992). Conflict and conflict management: Reflections and update. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13(3), 265–274.

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