The organizational variables which affect the development of interpersonal conflict in a department of nursing: A case study

Date of Completion

January 1989


Education, Sociology of|Health Sciences, Nursing|Education, Higher




This study examined the organizational variables which affect the development of interpersonal conflict among faculty members. The setting for this research was a department of nursing in a public university in New England. Utilizing Baldridge's political model of the university as a theoretical framework, organizational variables including goals and values, interest groups, organizational role, participation in decision-making and perceived equitability of treatment were examined. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with the members of the organization, non-participant observation of selected faculty meetings and document analysis. Trends in the data were identified through content analysis. The emergent category, characteristics of the formal leader, was revealed through inductive analysis of the data.^ The results of this study indicated that the organization itself had little if any interpersonal conflict. Consistent with the organizational literature, the variables commonly associated with minimum interpersonal conflict--knowledge of roles and responsibilities, perceived equitability of treatment and the absence of multiple interest groups--were present in the organization. Conversely, divergent goals and values, interest groups in the areas of clinical specialization and length of time teaching in the department and active participation of the faculty in the decision-making process were found to be present. While such variables have traditionally promoted interpersonal conflict, this was not the case in this particular environment.^ Characteristics of the formal leader was identified by the faculty as a significant variable in the amount of interpersonal conflict in the department. Two sub-categories--administrative style and willingness to negotiate--were suggested by the data as being related to little interpersonal conflict among the faculty. The democratic leadership style of the director, coupled with her willingness to negotiate with the faculty on important issues, significantly affected the organizational environment and fostered positive working relationships among the faculty.^ It is hypothesized that the unique nature of this organization, coupled with the participatory role of the formal leader, served to minimize conflict. Additional variables not explored in this study, such as personality, gender, and role of the professional in an organization need to be examined in further research. ^