It’s all about perspective when dealing with conflict.
It’s all about perspective for nurses when dealing with conflict in the workplace. Maintaining a healthy perspective helps to build personal resilience. Yesterday I was reminded by a colleague of a situation that still makes me smile when I realise how much of being a leader is all about having perspective. What I mean by this is the ability to see things from the other person’s or teams perspective changes the dynamics from a potential situation of conflict to one of shared understanding and agreement on a way forward that builds the relationship rather than detracting from it. In these situations, it can be so easy to feel irritated, annoyed, seeing the issue from your own perspective and not getting why your team can’t see the problem.
This simple story and the learning that I took away from it as a leader changed my perspective and the perspective of a colleague who felt equally irritated with the situation. It is probably something that I will remember and I know my colleague will for a long time and the memory of what happened and the ability to laugh at ourselves helps to keep that memory alive.
This story starts with the organisation that I worked for in a senior nursing position had a huge budget deficit. Each service was tasked with working with their teams and coming up with a potential savings plan otherwise we faced the stark reality of losing nursing positions to make the savings. As a leader it is important to communicate to teams the rationale behind the savings that need to be made, it is amazing when you explain what is required how a team can be creative and put forward solutions that as a leader you may not have even thought of.
One of the senior nurses put forward a suggestion that as a service we were ordering a huge amount of stationary every week and that there were savings to be made in this area. Each individual team started to keep track of what was being ordered and this was shared at our weekly operational meetings. What became clear was that a huge amount of tea and coffee was being ordered and no one seemed to be able to explain why so much was being used. As a senior team, we agreed that each ward would rationalise and reduce the tea and coffee order by half for a trial period. What followed became famously know as “teagate”!
There was uproar, staff complained, emails ran wild, there was even the suggestion that myself as a senior nurse was ordering the cheapest tea for staff and the most expensive tea for myself. It was the topic of conversation for weeks. In the midst of all this angst, one of the clinical nurses emailed me wanting answers to my strategy and articulating how strongly she felt about the whole issue and wanted to meet me to discuss as a matter of urgency. I admit I was irritated and annoyed but my leadership approach has and always will be to have an open door policy. I arranged a meeting with the clinical nurse and listened to her perspective without interruption. I then asked if I could explain things from my perspective and explained that as a service saving had to be made otherwise we would have no choice but to reduce staffing. I explained that we had analysed the amount of money that was being spent on stationary and that no one could explain to me why we were using so much tea and coffee.
It was at this point that the noticeable tension reduced and we began to explore potential solutions to the problem.The outcome of our meeting was a plan and a way forward, my colleague offered to be part of the solution by overseeing the tea and coffee for her ward and explaining to the clinical staff the reasons why we had to make savings. We laughed about this for l long time and every time we bumped into each other I would ask how teagate was going.
My colleague would answer “there is nothing that a good cuppa won’t fix”
The end result of all this was that we reduced our stationary spending by 300%. The most important lesson for me was to always remember as a leader that everyone has a different perspective and to create space to understand those perspectives no matter how busy or frustrated we feel because people learn from what we model and this grows leaders of the future.
Being able to maintain a healthy perspective supports your personal resilience.