Free article: Improving teacher recruitment and retention: part 1 Free article: Get ready to win strategic school improvement funding Reputation management for schools Experience shared: Effective mentoring Tackling bullying in schools - part one Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others Managing difficult conversations The art of influence: Creating the best outcome Change management and conflict Managing anxiety at work Interpreting data for 2017 performance Free article: Know your strengths Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Free article: HR and the successful school: A case study Free article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Free article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Free article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Free article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Free article: Transforming a failing school Free article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Free article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Free article: Managing uncertainty Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Free article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Free article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Free article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Free article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Free article: The governing body as a critical friend Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Free article: The exam post-mortem Free article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Free article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Free article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Free article: Baseline assessment and SEND Free article: Deconstructing the link between SEND and poverty Free article: Making performance management count in school improvement Free article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Free article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Free article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Free article: Headteachers’ appraisal Free article: Making CPD work harder Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Free article: The government's Prevent guidance Free article: Improving provision for the most able Free article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Free article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Free article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Free article: Actively promoting fundamental British values Free article: Raising boys’ achievement Free article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Free article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Free article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Free article: Challenging 
the most able Free article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Free article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Free article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Free article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Free article: Four steps to school improvement Free article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Free article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Free article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Free article: Getting personal  with CPD Free article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Free article: Parent View — an update Free article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Free article: Effective parental engagement

Free article: Improving teacher recruitment and retention: part 1

In the first part of a two-part article, Matt Bromley looks at ways to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Free article: Get ready to win strategic school improvement funding

How do you make a successful bid for a slice of the government’s Strategic School Improvement Fund? Best Practice Network’s Liam Donnison asks two school leaders who have done so…

Reputation management for schools

PLMR’s Sam Dalton talks about how schools can manage reputational impact when a crisis hits.

Experience shared: Effective mentoring

Steve Burnage explores the professional development potential of a productive and focused mentoring relationship from the perspective of the mentor.

Tackling bullying in schools - part one

Bullying is defined as: ‘Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’. This article looks at the…

Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others

Conflict management is a vital skill for managers. Schools have clear policies on managing aggression in the classroom and playground. In this article Louise Wingrove looks at dealing with it…

Managing difficult conversations

Some conversations are always going to be uncomfortable. In this article, Louise Wingrove looks at managing difficult subjects with care and confidence.

The art of influence: Creating the best outcome

Louise Wingrove looks at how being aware of your impact on others can help everybody get what they need.

Change management and conflict

Nazli Hussein looks at the causes of conflict and the best ways to deal with it, with the best outcomes for those involved.

Managing anxiety at work

With growing awareness about anxiety and the impact it can have on both pupils and members of staff, Louis Wingrove looks at some ways to tackle the problem in the…

Interpreting data for 2017 performance

Tony Powell looks at the three different ways that a school’s academic performance is evaluated.

Free article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Free article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Free article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Free article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Free article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Free article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Free article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Free article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Free article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Free article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Free article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Free article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Free article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Free article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Free article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Free article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Free article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Free article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Free article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Free article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Free article: Deconstructing the link between SEND and poverty

DfE statistics show a clear link between SEND and children living in poverty. Suzanne O’Connell outlines some of the reasons for this, and recommendations for action, in a Joseph Rowntree…

Free article: Making performance management count in school improvement

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Free article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Free article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Free article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Free article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Free article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Free article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Free article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Free article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Free article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Free article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Free article: Actively promoting fundamental British values

Tony Powell advises on how schools can demonstrate that they are actively promoting fundamental British values.

Free article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Free article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Free article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

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Free article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Free article: Challenging 
the most able

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Free article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Free article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Free article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Free article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

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Free article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Free article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Free article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

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Free article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Free article: Parent View — an update

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Free article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

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Free article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Change management and conflict

Published: Thursday, 22 March 2018

Nazli Hussein looks at the causes of conflict and the best ways to deal with it, with the best outcomes for those involved.

Summary

  • Key to resolving conflict is understanding its causes.
  • Managing people and potential conflicts is part of the role of SBM.
  • Disagreement is a normal part of life, but it is important to recognise when this has developed into a conflict situation.
  • The way people react to conflict will influence the end results.
  • Well-managed conflict can lead to benefits.

Conflict is: 'A clash or mental struggle resulting from opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands.' (www.merriam-webster.com).

Conflict is a part of life. It can have damaging or beneficial effects on a situation and the individuals involved. Knowing how to deal with conflict can be challenging.

Causes of conflict

Understanding the reason why you have found yourself in the middle of an unpleasant situation is key to working towards and reaching a resolution. Some causes of conflict within the workplace are:

  • changes to routine
  • core values or needs not being met
  • ambiguous roles and responsibilities
  • lack of empathy
  • unfair treatment
  • self-interest
  • lack of, or poor communication
  • exhaustion or saturation
  • poor work environment
  • lack of competence.

Any of these reasons can materialise in the busy environment of a school, and can impact on the dynamics and productivity of your team. You may be juggling people management with increasing responsibilities in other areas, being a key catalyst driving change and improving work practices, often at a rapid pace. Amid these ever-increasing and changing priorities, it can be hard to keep in mind that each member of your team is an individual with their own needs, drives and wishes that do not automatically mirror your own.

When a team member feels slighted for any reason, it can result in surface-level behaviour that does not actually explain the root cause of the issue. If the issue is not addressed immediately it can quickly escalate, leading to assumptions and miscommunication, causing a conflict situation. That is why understanding why conflict can occur can help to pre-empt, minimise or resolve situations.

What conflict looks like

Disagreements among your team will occur daily, in meetings and discussions as part of finding a resolution to a particular problem. Recognising when a disagreement has moved outside healthy debate to one of conflict is key to addressing and neutralising a potential situation quickly. Conflict behaviour may be displayed through:

  • interrupting
  • blaming
  • sarcasm
  • ignoring
  • defensiveness
  • generalising
  • walking away abruptly
  • acting bossy
  • gossiping
  • physical, verbal or emotional abuse.

Most of us can recall situations where the behaviours listed above have occurred. This kind of behaviour may be displayed within your team either by an individual or by a number of staff. If it is directed at you, ask yourself why it is happening before reacting. This will help you to find the root cause and understand the person's behaviour.

When situations are impaired by tit-for-tat conflict behaviour, the initial reason for the disagreement can become difficult to identify or communicate, even by the individual who felt slighted in the first place. The latest round of behaviour becomes the focus of blame.

A small proportion of conflict is due to a difference of opinion, with the majority due to delivery and tone of voice. If the un-derlying reason for conflict is almost always unwittingly hidden, and subsequent behaviour between the two parties involved seems unrelated and reactionary, it is easy to see how conflict can escalate quickly. Additional layers of complexity are created and the issue remains unresolved.

What to do when conflict happens

The way people react to conflict will influence the end results. Resources can be found on the internet (for example, http://www.acas.org.uk and https://www.cipd.co.uk) that give guidance on dealing with conflict, as well as the theory behind that guidance. However, when you find yourself in the midst of a situation, you are unlikely to recall the guidance, let alone the theory, and a hasty response in retaliation is more likely.

If possible, walk away, taking a step back to think through why the conflict may be happening. Then communicate by listening to the other person. Try to do this without interrupting. Try to find out the reason they feel the way they do without using the word 'why', which will illicit a response that starts with 'because' and may lead to further conflict. Show understanding and empathy towards their problem. This will go a long way to reducing defensiveness, as the other person will see that you are making a concerted effort. You should then take the opportunity to present your point of view, again without interruptions, and explain how you feel. Neither of you should feel afraid to ask for further clarification if a better understanding of opinions is needed. If either of you find it too difficult to do this calmly, consider asking a colleague to mediate.

Once you have established the root cause of the conflict, you can then move on to negotiating. Keeping the mediator on board may help with difficult conversations when trying to come up with possible solutions. Difficult as it may be, you may need to accept that a compromise is necessary. Try to avoid resisting this – a willingness to negotiate and compromise shows that you are focused on finding a solution, and not on being right. Search for and choose the fairest solution that will allow you, as closely as possible, to implement the plan you initially had in mind.

Finally, plan to re-evaluate the situation, agree when evaluation will take place and review the conflict situation as whole. Suggest a time in the future when it would be safe to assume that emotions around the conflict have subsided, and when both parties have had time to come to terms with the compromise made and the solution agreed upon. How could such a situation be avoided in the future? What self-development needs were highlighted? What could both parties or individuals benefit from focusing on? Did the solution meet the needs, drives and wishes of everyone involved? Identify what lasting negative and positive outcomes have been experienced.

Benefits of managed conflict

The way conflict is managed can either contribute to a team's failure or add to its productivity. Mismanaged and unmanaged conflict results in underperformance, time wastage, demotivation, lost opportunities, staff replacement, sabotage, restructuring around the problem and absenteeism. On the other hand, if managed effectively, conflict can be harnessed to generate advantages such as:

  • encouraging healthy debate
  • facilitating a sense of commitment
  • increasing the rate of change
  • settling any doubts and queries
  • improving relationships
  • exposing tricky issues.

In future, when faced with the possibility of conflict, try to avoid succumbing to that sinking feeling of 'here we go again' and employing avoidance techniques, mismanaging or reacting too aggressively to the situation. Instead, view it as an opportunity to achieve some potential advantages and to self-evaluate and develop. Deal with it head on, calmly employing a 'communicate, negotiate and evaluate' approach. Focus on quickly identifying and resolving the root cause of the difference of opinion, manag-ing the tone and delivery of your communication throughout, as you negotiate a path towards a solution. Evaluate lessons learnt and the final benefits that have supported improvements to your team.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to help you put the ideas in this article into practice:

  • Handout - Difficult conversations

About the author

Nazli Hussein is a freelance SBM with more than ten years' experience working with a wide variety of schools across London. She has extensive skills in all operational aspects of running a school, as well as project management expertise in developing new schools from conception through to launch. Nazli offers services through www.sbm-support.me and can be contacted on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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