Don't Let Dysfunctional Conflict Cycles Ruin Your Practice

People handle conflict in many different ways. Without proper guidance, many people resort to knee-jerk reactions in conflict situations which can escalate the problem.  In the medical office, the office manager or those in a leadership role need the skills necessary to facilitate successful resolution of the conflict.  

Conflict communication styles determine whether conflicts go unresolved or the individuals involved in the conflict reach a mutually satisfying solution.  It is important to identify dysfunctional conflict styles to reduce or eliminate negative outcomes when conflict occurs in the medical office. Dysfunctional conflict cycles can lead to ineffective communication, poor patient satisfaction outcomes or hostile working environments for the medical office staff.

1
Confrontation Avoidance

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While some people may think it is best, avoiding conflict is a dysfunctional method for dealing with conflict.  Avoidance leads to unresolved conflict  which can lead to destructive interactions. 

What are the signs of confrontation avoidance?

  • Less interaction
  • Avoiding the other party
  • Feelings of resentment
  • Feelings of disappointment
  • Complaining to a third party
  • Less dependence on the other party

What does the confrontation avoidance cycle look like?

  1. The potential for conflict exists in all areas of life that make conflicts possible such as a relationship or environment 
  2. An event occurs that one or both parties perceives as a conflict situation
  3. The conflict should be triggered by an action by one or both parties either through verbal or nonverbal communication but for individuals that avoid confrontation conflict is never initiated.  The individual will either give in to the other party or avoid the conflict completely.
  4. Since the conflict is not resolved, issues build up and eventually results in mismanaged conflict because the person eventually reacts in a negative way.
  5. Because the conflict ended badly, the party perceives that conflict is bad and the cycle is repeated.

2
Competitive Communication

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Individuals not afraid of conflict don't avoid it but they can still behave in a manner that contributes to the escalation of the conflict situation. Competitive communication occurs when each party tries to be dominate and outdo one another.

What are the signs of competitive communication?

  • Yelling
  • Insulting or personal attacks
  • Making threatening gestures
  • Pushing buttons unrelated to the situation
  • Walking away
  • Physical violence

What does the competitive communication cycle look like?

  1. ​The potential for conflict exists in all areas of life that makes conflict possible such as a relationship or environment
  2. An event occurs that one or both parties perceives as a conflict situation
  3. The conflict is be triggered by an action by one or both parties either through verbal or nonverbal communication. The party initiating the conflict typically takes a strong stance against the other party.
  4. The other party responds and also takes a strong stance and the conflict intensifies.
  5. One party wins, the other party loses and because the conflict ended badly, the party that lost perceives the conflict as bad and the cycle is repeated.

3
Passive-Aggressive Behavior

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The third type of dysfunction conflict is passive-aggressive.  A person with passive-aggressive behavior is one that does not directly confront the other party in the conflict but operates behind the scenes to get their way.

What are the signs of passive-aggressive behavior?

  • Goes behind the person's back or goes over their head
  • Pretends to be friends when they are not
  • Engages in back-stabbing
  • Withholds something the other person wants until they get what they want
  • Displays anger indirectly

What does the passive-aggressive communication cycle look like?

  1. ​The potential for conflict exists in all areas of life that makes conflict possible such as a relationship or environment
  2. An event occurs that one or both parties perceives as a conflict situation
  3. The conflict is be triggered by an action by one or both parties either through verbal or nonverbal communication. 
  4. Instead of confronting the other party, the passive-aggressive person uses malicious means of getting their way
  5. If the actions of the passive-aggressive person works, they feel that this type of behavior is acceptable, the party that lost perceives the conflict as bad and the cycle is repeated.

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