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Breaking the health-care workplace conflict perpetuation cycle

Cheryl M. Patton (School of Business and Leadership, Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania, USA)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 10 February 2020

Issue publication date: 23 April 2020




The purpose of this study is to describe and interpret the interpersonal and intragroup conflict experiences of staff-level employees and leaders in the medical imaging technology field, working in US tertiary care centers to extract mitigation and management strategies.


A total of 13 medical imaging technologists, who were employed in leadership and staff positions throughout the USA, offered their in-depth accounts of workplace conflict in this interpretive phenomenological investigation.


Conflict avoidance was a predominant conflict management style. This style did little to effectively manage workplace conflict. In some cases, it led to deleterious effects on individuals and organizations and created conflict perpetuation. With proper conflict mitigation and management, the conflict perpetuation cycle can be broken.

Research limitations/implications

Generalization beyond the group being studied is not applicable, as it is not the intent of phenomenological research. Four leaders participated in the research study. To examine this population more completely, a greater sample size is required. This recommendation also applies to the staff technologist roles. Another limitation involved the leader/staff-level representation inequality, as well as the male–female representation. These imbalances made it difficult to effectively make comparisons of the experiences of leaders with staff-level technologists, and males with females.

Practical implications

Offering the medical imaging workforce emotional intelligence training, health-care administrators can invest in their leaders and staff technologists. Medical imaging schools can incorporate emotional intelligence training into their curricula. Clear policies may decrease the ill effects of change when unforeseeable occurrences result in schedule modifications. Making technologists fully aware of who is responsible for shift coverage when these events occur may reduce negative impact. Trainings in organizational change, collaboration or positivity may be warranted, depending on findings of cultural assessments. Team-building events and opportunities for employees to intermingle may also be used to improve a departmental or organizational culture.

Social implications

Mitigating and managing health-care workplace conflict more effectively may prevent patient harm, thus improving the health of members of society.


According to recent studies, conflict, and the incivility that often accompanies it, has been on the increase in US organizations overall, and in health care specifically. Conflict that perpetuates can adversely affect health-care organizations and its employees. This paper offers mitigation and management strategies to prevent such consequences.



Patton, C.M. (2020), "Breaking the health-care workplace conflict perpetuation cycle", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 147-162.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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