Journal Browser Advanced Search Help
Journal Browser Advanced search HELP
J Nurs Acad Soc. 1997 Mar;27(1):169-177. Korean. Original Article.
Lee MO .
Doctoral Candidate, College of Nursing, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.

This study aims at empirically clarifying the relationship between power and the interpersonal conflict, including nurses' understanding of their relative power, the causes of interpersonal conflicts with the nurses, and strategies to resolve conflicts in order to understand how nurses' relative power affect their conflicts. For the empirical survey, the population was defined as all the nurses working at a medical organization in Seoul, Korea. 1083 nurses were selected as the sample for the questionnaire survey and statistical analyses. For the sampling, 32 medical organizations were selected by a stratified random method and sub-samples were arbitrarily drawn from each organization to obtain the final sample of 1083 nurses who responded to the questionnaire designed by the researcher. According to the result of the study, most nurses experience conflict more than once a month, and 70.4% of the respondents answered that interpersonal conflicts were directly or indirectly caused by power relations, which indicates that they perceive power relations as the main cause of interpersonal conflicts. Nurses experienced the most conflicts with interns and residents(29.7%), then patients and their families(24.3%), higher-positioned nurses(12.3%), nurse colleagues(7.7%), lower-positioned nurses(6.5%), and staff doctors(5.1%). If we classify these into three groups, the frequency of the conflicts, from most frequent to least, is in the order of doctors, nurses, and patients. In terms of relative power, nurses perceive that they have greater power than patients than patients and their families, lower-positioned nurses, and nurse colleagues. In contrast, nurses perceive that they have less power than interns and residents, higher-positioned nurses, and staff doctors. Among these groups, nurses perceive that they have the most power over patients and the least over staff doctors. These results indicate that nurses tend to experience more conflicts with members of groups that are stronger than themselves in terms of relative power. Nurses use positive strategies such as the compromise strategy(32.3%) or the collaboration strategy(20.3%) to manage conflicts, more than other strategies. However, they use avoidance or competition strategy more at the earlier stage, compromise strategy more in the mid stage, and collaboration strategy more at the later stage of the interpersonal conflict. In relation to power, nurses use the collaboration strategy or the compromise strategy more when their perceived power is greater than or equal to their counterpart's and they use the avoidance strategy or the accommodation strategy if their power is less. In terms of source of power, nurses' perceived relative power is greater in the order of referent power, expert power, reward power, legitimate power, and coercive power, where referent power is perceived as having the greatest power and coercive power is least. Most nurses(69.3%) used their power to resolve a conflict, with positive outcomes. Expert power was used most frequently. Overall, this study strongly indicates that the enhancement of power of nurses to have equal power relations with doctors would heighten the success of conflict resolution, since power is the main cause of conflicts. Specifically, nurses experience most conflicts with doctors against whom they perceive the greatest gap in power, and the choice of a conflict management strategy depend upon their power relations.

Copyright © 2019. Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors.