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Keywords:

  • behaviour;
  • concept analysis;
  • interpersonal communication;
  • interpersonal conflict;
  • nursing;
  • organizational relationships

Aim.  The aim of this paper is to examine the concept of conflict in nursing work environments using the evolutionary approach to concept analysis.

Background.  In nursing work environments, conflict among nurses is becoming a significant issue resulting in job dissatisfaction, absenteeism, and turnover. Although discussed frequently in the nursing literature, nursing research has focused predominantly on conflict management without first understanding the elements, causes and effects of conflict.

Methods.  A literature search was conducted using CINAHL, Proquest, PsychINFO, Social Sciences Index and MEDLINE databases and the keywords conflict and work environment. Articles over the last 25 years from each of these databases were examined to identify major themes, areas of agreement and disagreement across disciplines, changes in the concept over time, and emerging trends.

Findings.  Conflict is a multidimensional construct with both detrimental and beneficial effects. Most definitions agree that conflict is a process involving two or more people, where a person perceives the opposition of the other. Antecedents stem from individual characteristics, interpersonal factors, and organizational factors. Individual effects, interpersonal relationships, and organizational effects are the main consequences of conflict. A theoretical model of the antecedents and consequences is presented, with implications for further development.

Conclusions.  A more thorough understanding of the sources and outcomes of conflict within nursing work environments would enable the prevention of conflict. If properly understood and managed, conflict can also lead to positive outcomes for nurses and healthcare organizations.