BACKGROUND : Workplace conflict is common among nurses globally. Learning how to manage
it may reduce related adverse consequences. Inappropriate management of conflict is
attributed to decreased productivity, poor morale and financial loss for organisations. Nurse
unit managers can play a key role by effectively managing workplace conflict in the units.
OBJECTIVES : To explore how nurse unit managers manage conflict in public hospitals and
subsequently to make recommendations on how to optimise conflict management skills of
nurse unit managers.
METHOD : A qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual study was conducted to explore
how nurse unit managers managed conflict based on a scenario provided to them. Purposive
sampling was used to select nurse unit managers working in three public hospitals. Eleven
nurse unit managers participated in the study. Data were collected in two phases. In phase 1,
a conflict scenario was developed in consultation with experienced nurse managers. The
conflict scenario was used during phase 2, which involved individual face-to-face semistructured
interviews with nurse unit managers until data saturation. Tesch’s method of
thematic synthesis was used to analyse the data. Literature review was undertaken to ascertain
what is considered as an appropriate intervention in conflict management.
RESULTS : Three themes emanated from data analysis: nurse unit managers managed conflict
appropriately, nurse unit managers avoided the conflict and nurse unit managers managed
CONCLUSION : While some of the nurse unit managers managed conflict appropriately, additional
and continuous education and training is required to optimise the capacity and develop their
conflict management competency. The findings could be integrated into orientation, training
and preparation of nurse managers by health care organisations and educational institutions.