It’s hard to avoid conflict. Conflict is a normal part of daily life, and it can arise from differences in beliefs, ideas or interests. It can happen in any community, and given the structure of a school community — with different professional licensures, seniority levels and backgrounds — conflicts may be unavoidable. The key is learning how to manage and even gain from them.
Here are some ways conflict can affect the workplace:
- It can decrease productivity. You may find yourself working very hard with little to show for it.
- It can isolate people from each other. Are you avoiding conversations or your colleagues because of a conflict?
- It can increase emotional stress. Are you overthinking or feeling anxious or overwhelmed?
- It can affect physical well-being. You might feel lethargic, gain weight or have digestive or other physical manifestations.
- It can alter professional boundaries and lead to unprofessional behavior in meetings or with coworkers.
In close-knit school communities, personal boundaries may be crossed. When that happens, conflict often follows. But conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. It can create an opportunity for understanding differences and the values of others.
Here are some ways conflict can be helpful in the workplace:
- It allows for open communication.
- It can resolve misunderstandings.
- It can strengthen relationships.
- It can build decision-making strategies.
Here are some strategies to help resolve workplace conflicts:
- Pause and take a deep breath.
- Acknowledge that another person may see something differently.
- Validate your understanding and feelings about the difference.
- Talk about behaviors that are bothering you, not someone’s personality. Use concrete examples such as, “It made me upset when you spoke over me at the staff meeting.”
- Identify the issues and be clear about the problem.
- Be committed to listening without interrupting.
- Try to find common ground and be open to a resolution that is different than what you envisioned.
- Agree to negotiate; or agree to disagree.
- List possible solutions.
- Remember that everyone has a right to an opinion.