Narratives revealed: uncovering hidden conflict in professional relationships



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A qualitative narrative approach is used in this study of hidden conflict among nurses and support staff in a hospital setting. Twenty nurses and support staff from a single hospital nursing unit participated in in-depth interviews and shared narratives about hidden conflict. These narratives were used as data in the analysis and were augmented by observations and participant observational data. Narrative, content and theme analyses were applied to the data. Bruner?s narrative theory was applied to a portion of the narratives as a methodology for narrative analysis. Content and theme analyses facilitated the differentiation and grouping of the communicative acts from the hidden conflict acts as found in the narrative and observational data. Results showed that nurses and support staff aligned themselves within the organizational hierarchy, and that much of the experienced hidden conflicts stemmed from issues of organizational positioning. Results also showed that narrative analysis was an effective way to understand the meaning behind the conflict experiences of nurses and support staff. Finally, results demonstrated key communicative forms and hidden conflict strategies used in carrying out hidden conflict acts. Collectively, these findings verify the vitality of hidden conflict?s presence in organizations that exists embedded in the organizational culture. This study further reaffirms the importance of front stage communications to decrease the negative affects of hidden organizational conflict.