Do you ever have those days where you wonder if there is a sign on your forehead that says “Bring Conflict Here” because it keeps coming up and getting in your face? I’ve had a couple of those days lately. They can be wearing, can’t they?
I’ve heard some administrators say that they avoid conflict. That statement intrigues me. Now, let me clarify. I’m not the type of person who wakes up every morning hoping for some conflict nor am I someone who likes to stir up the pot to get some conflict brewing. I can enjoy a conflict-free day, like anyone else. But I don’t think I avoid it. Unless I’m misunderstanding something. To me, avoiding something would mean you go around it, take a detour, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. And if we are the administrator, isn’t that part of our job to resolve the conflict? If we don’t deal with it, who will?
I think conflict comes with the job, because there are so many situations that we are involved in where conflict can occur. I’m not saying it will, but the conditions are ripe for it to occur. Such as when you want to change the way things have been done in your building or you need to talk to someone about their job performance or you have to disagree with something a parent says or wants. I could easily name twenty more instances and so could you. And I’m not talking about conflict where it gets loud or ugly or physical. I’m talking about those meetings with people (can be staff or parents or colleagues or board members) where people don’t agree or don’t understand or don’t listen and it gets a bit heated and there is no easy solution.
As stressful as conflict can be, I try to learn from the situation. Especially in those times where the conflict is not resolved and you have to meet several more times. Could I listen more and talk less? Could I make more eye contact? What does my body language say? What is it the other person wants? How can I compromise? These are things I ask myself so that I am more aware and in a better position to resolve the conflict.
So, if you are someone who avoids conflict in a leadership role - how do you do it? What does that look like? Is it effective?
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