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Resolving conflicts

New York Teacher
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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:

  1. It can decrease productivity. You may find yourself working very hard with little to show for it.
  2. It can isolate people from each other. Are you avoiding conversations or your colleagues because of a conflict?
  3. It can increase emotional stress. Are you overthinking or feeling anxious or overwhelmed?
  4. It can affect physical well-being. You might feel lethargic, gain weight or have digestive or other physical manifestations.
  5. 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:

  1. It allows for open communication.
  2. It can resolve misunderstandings.
  3. It can strengthen relationships.
  4. It can build decision-making strategies.

Here are some strategies to help resolve workplace conflicts:

  1. Pause and take a deep breath.
  2. Acknowledge that another person may see something differently.
  3. Validate your understanding and feelings about the difference.
  4. 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.”
  5. Identify the issues and be clear about the problem.
  6. Be committed to listening without interrupting.
  7. Try to find common ground and be open to a resolution that is different than what you envisioned.
  8. Agree to negotiate; or agree to disagree.
  9. List possible solutions.
  10. Remember that everyone has a right to an opinion.

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