3 steps to resolve conflict in the cab
When the people in the front of the ambulance clash, here’s how to get them back on the right road
By Chris Cebollero
There is nothing better than finding that most perfect of partners. With that person, there is always laughing, joking and making fun of most everything. When it comes to patient care, you hit on all cylinders, and your patients receive the best care possible.
As with any great partnership, there are times you will get on each other’s nerves too. It could be listening to the same radio station all the time, constantly talking, or even not opening the window when “necessary.” Partnerships can put our leaders in some very stressful situations, and it's important for us to be up on our conflict resolution skills.
Conflicts can be the simplest of issues to the most intense personal animosity. This is where your diplomacy and communication skills can make the difference between a positive or negative outcome.
There are different leadership approaches to resolve conflict. My favorite is the Interest-Based Relational Approach. This method allows you to respect individual differences while helping people avoid becoming rooted in a set position. Use this approach as a foundation to focus on your preparation to resolve the conflict.
Here are some rules:
- Ensure good relationships continue. It is important to treat everyone involved fairly and try to build mutual respect. It is your responsibility to remain calm and level-headed.
- People and problems should be kept separate. It is easy for us to think that a particular employee is a problem child, and the cause of the issues. In my experience, digging deep enough may allow you to see just the opposite. Give the benefit of the doubt until all evidence and information gathering is complete.
- Pay attention to the problem being presented to you. It is easy to let your mind wander and determine a solution right away. You will do the situation, the staff and your own credibility a disservice when you fail to truly understand the issues being presented.
- Listen first, and talk second. To truly understand what is at the root of the matter, listen to what the employees are saying.
- Explore options and solutions together. Set out the facts and agree on and establish the objectives, outcomes and information that will have an outcome to settle this conflict.
This allows the employees to be part of the solution; it also allows you to teach creative thinking and conflict resolution skills to your staff. When future conflicts occur, they are now armed with the ability to take their conflict resolution skills to the next level.
Steps to successful conflict resolution
Let's now look at a three-step process to effectively mediate a conflict and assist staff to develop a solution to the problem at hand.
Step 1: Prepare for the resolution
- Acknowledge that the conflict exists. As part of human nature, we tend to ignore the first signs of conflict.
- Discuss the impact this conflict is having on the team, department and overall mission.
- Have all parties agree to communicate during this process. We have all seen EMTs and paramedics shut down in the face of conflict. For success, we need all parties to be open to dialog and to finding the best possible solution.
Step 2: Strive to understand the situation.
- Simplify each other’s positions. This allows both parties to see the facts more fairly with less emotion.
- Make a list of the facts, beliefs and assumptions of both sides. Not only is this a starting point, it also allows everyone to get a bird's eye view of the others position.
- Hammering out a conflict can get pretty heated. If necessary, analyze the problem in a smaller group to relieve tensions. Once you have gotten to the root cause of an issue, you can bring the groups back together for a larger discussion.
Step 3: Reach for an agreement.
- Have the team decide on the best decision and set a course of action.
- Give both parties goals and responsibilities to ensue positions are understood and respected going forward. If need be, give deadlines, so that the problem does not linger.
- If the team cannot agree on a decision, it may be necessary for you to resolve the situation yourself. Remember to be fair and nonbiased and come up with the best resolution for the team, department and mission.
Conflict is pretty much inevitable when you work with others. It is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it gets resolved effectively. Conflict resolution can lead to personal and professional growth for all involved.