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Change and Conflict Theories and Change Agent Essay

What does it take to for an organization to become successful? Research suggests that an effective institution is one that is infused with competent, motivated employees who have been molded to succeed. However, this process takes effort from both sound management and motivated employees. If either is not fully committed, then failure is sure to follow. On the other hand, if done properly, any organization will become enriched with employees who will constantly strive for perfection. The bottom line is that a well-mentored and motivated employee helps produce a successful organization. Before any organization can institute change, the management team must identify and understand the concept of change theory. In other words, he or she should have a clear picture of those internal and external forces that create successful situations and those circumstances that hinder progress. Three basic types of organizational change theories come to mind; they are environmental change, teleological change and life cycle change. The lecture notes describe environmental change, “that which involves situations and the environment around an individual or group. Environmental change is unplanned and a result of changes in the environment (South University, 2013). An example is Florence Nightingale’s Environmental Theory Defined Nursing: “The act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery” (Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 2010).

This theory focuses on changing and influencing the environment in order to put the patient in the best possible conditions such as, having access to fresh air, pure water, cleanliness and sanitation. Nightingale considered a clean, well-ventilated, quiet environment essential for recovery (Nursing Theorists, n.d.). Teleological change theory is a repetitive sequence of implementation, evaluation and modification of an end state based on what was intended (Van de Ven & Sun, 2011). Teleological change or planned change is purposeful social construction among individuals within the organization undergoing change and individuals do not recognize the need for change (Van de Ven & Sun, 2011). Changes occur because management sees the need for change but may fail from lack of plans. This can be improved by teambuilding and training (Van de Ven & Sun, 2011). Another change theory is life cycle theory which describes the process of change as progressing through different stages and activities over time (Van de Ven & Sun, 2011). In most organizations, life cycle changes are based on routines learned in the past for managing repeated changes in efficient and effective ways and how individuals are able to adapt (Van de Ven & Kangyong Sun, 2011).

Organizations go through different life cycles similar to those of people. For example, people go through infancy, child-hood and early-teenage phases, which are characterized by rapid growth over a short period of time. Comparably, organizations go through start-up, growth, maturity, decline, renewal and death. A leader should take time to explain the change, how it will benefit the organization and how it will help to achieve the organization’s vision. The effect of change on the staff must be thought out and a plan must be implemented to avoid confrontational consequences. Most importantly, leaders should constantly communicate every detail as simply, clearly and extensively as possible.

Conflict Theories

Conflict theory focuses on the negative aspects of society. Contemporary theory say conflicts are expected between human beings, beneficial and are the result of change (Conflict management, n.d.). Social conflict pertains to each individual advancing their own interest, conflicting with the interests of others. Social conflict theory uses one’s own desires. Conflict evolves from two individuals wanting the same thing or wanting two different things. Thomas (1976), put conflict into two categories: cooperative and assertiveness (South University, 2013). The ones who end up controlling the majority of these resources exert their power over others with the use of inequality causing social conflict over the struggle of power. This way of thinking is derived from Karl Marx who saw society as being split into different groups all competing for the same social and economic resources. Social conflict theory is complex by inequality and conflict that cause social change. Organizational conflict is a dispute caused by apparent conflict of needs, values and interests between people working together. Organizational conflict theory enhances productivity, decision-making, cooperation, communication and employees who work together (Organizational conflict, 2013).

Organization conflict in the workplace occurs from personality differences and personal problems such as childcare issues or family issues. Organizational factors that cause conflict are leadership and management styles, budget constraints and disagreements among staff members (Organizational conflict, 2013). Organizational conflicts can also occur when two or more departments within the same organization compete for the same limited resources, such as budget, equipment and the need for additional staff. Organizational conflict can be negative to staff and the faculty. This constant competition can create stress and result in poor outcome for patients. This implies as an individual develops, they need to be given more responsibility and the opportunity to develop their potential (Organizational conflict, 2013). Another type of conflict is interpersonal conflict. This occurs when two nurses disagree on an issue. Interpersonal conflict can be noticeable when a person verbally attacks someone. Thus, the result can be damaging to the medical facility if patients witness the conflict (Dodge, 2009). Intrapersonal conflict may occur for a nurse who feels overwhelmed as she struggles to balance her job requirements with her personal life and beliefs (Dodge, 2009).

Conflict resolution

With the change in health care, conflict is certain to happen. Managing and addressing conflict and facilitating a healthy work environment is essential (South University, 2013). According to Follet and Deutsch, conflict could be constructive and not viewed as a weakness. Follet studied the effectiveness of handling interpersonal conflict in an organization with domination, compromise and integration (South University, 2013). In 1976, Thomas devised an effective way to handle conflict by accommodating, avoiding, collaborating with members of management and encouraging compromise (South University, 2013). Accommodating is the willingness to meet the needs of others at the expense of one’s own needs; in essence, keeping the peace is more important than “winning” a small battle. Avoiding conflict is trying to evade the conflict completely. This is a weak and ineffective approach. Collaborating is trying to meet the needs of all people involved. This style is important in order to bring together different viewpoints to make a decision or to agree on a solution. Competing is when one takes a firm stand on what he believes is true. This style is used as a position of power and expertise then used in situations that need an immediate answer. Compromising is when one tries to find a solution that satisfies everyone. This style is effective when the cost of conflict is higher then the cost of losing (Manktelow & Carlson, n.d.).

Change Agent

The Change Agent is a person who brings a positive change to the health care environment. Nurses play the role of change agent by bringing improvement (Nursing, 2011). An effective nurse leader, as a change agent, resolves conflict by incorporating communication with conflict resolution to get what they need accomplished on a day-to-day basis. Nurses dislike conflict and like to avoid it at all cost. Nurses take a passive approach to conflict management, calming the situation and not addressing it directly. Nurses do not confront the behavior for fear that it will only make matters worse (Blake & Young, 2013). The Change agent must identify the problem, the importance of the problem, address the people involved, and have the confidence to resolve it. Change agents need to implement plans to achieve and change goals (Grossman &Valigra, 2008). They must be proactive in order to address the issue or problem before it becomes a major conflict. An example of a conflict is a family member’s request for a second opinion regarding the patient care. The nurse leader should have a nurse intervene and go to the family in order to help relieve their anxiety. She should be an active listener and remain calm. Nothing sets people off more than when they feel they are being ignored or patronized. It is easy to become emotional but it is not worth getting into a volatile discussion that ends in confrontation.

Finally, she should seek a solution and work to come up with a solution or a compromise good for both parties. Nurse leaders use conflict resolution with collaboration. Both parties of the conflict confront the problem. The nurse leader takes equal concern for both sides by listening and communicating with the parties. Then both parties can collaborate and identify what they can agree on and evaluate the differences for a solution (South University, 2013). A situation that comes to my mind deals with a supervisor and a subordinate. During this interpersonal conflict, I witnessed on many occasions two strong-willed personalities clash that often ended in verbal altercations. In these situations, the subordinate is a highly self-centered female who cares little about those within hearing distance. On the other hand, our supervisor is very laid back and genuinely well- liked by most people. However, when the two came together, they clashed over the speed in which my co-worker completed her tasks. Although, she was very thorough with her work, it often meant that she could not handle the same load as the others in the office. Therefore, as co-workers, we had to pick up the slack. This person did not deal well with how the conflict was resolved which often ended up with counsel for insubordination.

The tension between the two grew more intense over a period of three to four years. This conflict ended when our supervisor resigned. Nurses in health care today use avoidance as a style for managing conflict which is usually counterproductive. This leads to stress and further conflict. Nurses who repeatedly avoid conflict hold onto the feelings of irritation, frustration or anger with themselves. Avoidance does not solve the problem or prevent the conflict. Competition can result from one individual or group gaining up on another. Attempts to solve conflict with power and control will result in unstable situations and negative communication. Lastly, competitive individuals fail to identify the concerns and needs of others (Handling conflict, n.d.).


In conclusion, for an organization to be successful, the management team and leaders must identify and understand the concept of change theory. Nurse leaders need to be aware of conflict that can occur with change in the health care environment. Nurses have difficulty with change because it can be related to interpersonal conflict, social conflict or organizational conflict. An effective leader is a change agent by being proactive, be an effective listener and have great communication. A change agent must identify the problem, the importance of the problem, know the people involved and have the confidence to resolve it. Nurses in health care today hinder the resolution of conflict by avoiding the conflict. The nurse leader can help by steering the conflict to a positive outcome.

Dodge, A. (2009, November 10). Types of Conflicts in Nursing | eHow. EHow. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.ehow.com/about_5630265_types-conflicts-nursing.html Habel, M., RN, MA. (2013). The Power of Change | CE365-60 Content. The Power of Change | CE365-60 Content. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://ce.nurse.com/content/ce365-60/the-power-of-change/ Handling conflict. (n.d.). SAGE – the Natural Home for Authors, Editors and Societies.
Retrieved October 19, 2013, from http://www.sagepub.com/ Manktelow, J., & Carlson, A. (n.d.). Management training and leadership training, online. Mind Tools New Articles RSS. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from http://www.mindtools.com/ Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association. (2010, November/December). 24th Annual Conference of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (16), 366-387. Retrieved from http://jap.sagepub.com Blake, N., PhD, RN, CCRN & Young, C. (n.d.). How to be an effective charge nurse. Nursing Theorists. (n.d.). Nursing Theorists. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from http://currentnursing.com/nursing_theory/nursing_theorists.html Oberleitner, M. (n.d.). Theories models and frameworks from administration and management. University of Illinois at Chicago – UIC. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from http://www.uic.edu/ Organizational conflict. (2013, October 15). Wikipedia. Retrieved October 19, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organizational_conflict South University Online. (2013). Leadership in a Diverse Society: Week 3: Conflict Theories. Retrieved from www.myeclassonline.com Van de Ven, A. H., & Sun, K. (2011, August). Breakdowns in Inplementing Models of Organization Change. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(3), pp. 58-74. Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://www.neeley.tcu.edu

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