Conflict Management
Strategies for your Toolkit
Dr. Buddy Coleman
UNC Wilmington
Strategies for Your Toolkit
• Strategy 1: Avoid Emotional High Jacking
• Strategy 2: Prevent Conflict
• Strategy 3: Resolve Conflict
Sequential Process
Strategy 1
Strategy 2
Strategy 3
Strategy 1 – Most Important One
Avoid becoming emotionally high jacked
• Do not emotionally high jack ourselves
• Do not allow others to high jack us
Avoid High Jacking Ourselves
• Psychodynamic Leadership Theory
– Hardwired neurological pathways; aggression
and emotional states are driven by the medulla
oblongata in our brains
– Behavioral patterns
– Personality development
• Preferences & Orientations
– Comfort Zone: what we like rather than dislike
– Needs based: satisfying our needs
– Resist modifying our behaviors
– Doing what we “want to do”
– Instead of what we “should do”
Do Not Allow Others to High Jack Us
• People who are in control of their emotions are in
• Resist giving in to physiological and psychological
comfort zone responses
• Do not take the “bait” when people and/or
situations set off our emotional triggers
• Emotional triggers are usually developed from
childhood and are our “hot buttons” that can cause
us to lose control and overreact
Effective Charter Leaders
• Operationally defined as individuals who live,
work and perform at their very best
• They accomplish this by being keenly aware
of their strengths and weaknesses
• Most importantly, they modify their thinking,
behaviors and decisions to think, analyze,
listen and “take the high ground” rather than
undermining themselves emotionally
Emotional Intelligence
Understanding ourselves personally
Understanding our strengths and weaknesses
Maintaining an effective leadership orientation
We are no longer leaders once we become
emotionally high jacked
• Effectiveness of our actions and decisions are
determined by the reactions
Emotional Triggers
• Defined as behaviors and situations that may cause
us to respond more emotionally than rationally
• Usually related to childhood events, parental
relationships and/or deep feelings about loved ones
• The emotional triggers stimulate the medulla
oblongata in our brains and result in a “flight” or
“fight” response
• Example of an emotional trigger
Emotional Triggers
• What kind of things do people do that you
• What are your feelings towards people when
they do things that you dislike?
• What are some of your emotional triggers?
Strategy 2: Prevent Conflict
• First we must implement Strategy 1 by always
taking the high ground and avoiding being
emotionally high jacked by ourselves or others
• Second, we must establish agreements based on
purpose, mission and goals relative to behaviors
and interactions for all charter school stakeholders
• Principal/Director, Board Members, Teachers,
Parents, Students and Staff
• Staff development for Principal and Board Members
is critical and should include personality inventories
to promote understanding among charter school
Preventing Conflict
• Establish behavioral agreements for discussions,
interactions and decision making
• These must be in alignment with charter school
mission, purpose and goals
• Behavioral agreements must also be congruent with
the roles of principal, board members, teachers and
• Charter school leaders must focus on managing the
interpersonal dynamics of all charter school
Preventing Conflict
• Establish and commit to agreements
• Written guidelines for interaction
• Types of agreements include:
– Communication
– Behaviors
– Assumptions
– Trust
– Feedback
Example of Behavioral Agreements
“We agree to…
Open, honest, & regular communication
No silent disagreements
Collaborate with each other…focus on win-win
Anticipate opportunities and issues
Assume positive Intent
Respect each other
Maintain confidentiality
Keep our promises
Provide immediate feedback to anyone who violates an
• Support each other to ensure a successful charter
Preventing Conflict
• It our responsibility, as charter school leaders, to
resolve interpersonal conflicts ASAP in meaningful
ways relative to maintaining healthy relationships to
work together to stay on point
• Leaders must be able to understand and be able to
deal with feelings, disagreements and issues
• This is our responsibility
Preventing Conflict
• To be successful, charter school leaders must establish
high quality, trusting personal relationships with their
teachers, parents and board members
• This is accomplished by:
– Building relationships based on openness, expertise
and a willingness to listen to the views, opinions, and
priorities of your stakeholders
– Maintaining an even-handed and controlled approach in
all interactions.
– Guiding stakeholders via personal interactions rather
than positional authority and allowing time for them to
process issues and decisions.
Preventing Conflict
• Board Members’ Roles
– Preparation: Does the board have a clear sense of how it will
conduct oversight of the academic program and fiscal health
of the organization?
• Board Members’ Abilities
– Capacity and Composition: Does the board the have the
skills and expertise to govern?
• Board Members/Principal Governance
– Structure: Is the proposed governance structure in line with
best practice?
– Clarity: Is there clear delineation of the authority and duties
of the board, school leader, parents, teachers, and
contractor, such as an education service provider (ESP) or a
charter management organization (CMO)?
Preventing Conflict
• Charter school leader’s ability to maintain a
professional, controlled orientation
• Effectively use communication and listening
skills to promote positive and constructive
• Establish formal structures and operationally
define roles that are clearly understood
Strategy 3: Resolving Conflict
• First, Strategies 1 and 2 must be implemented
• Next, if conflict occurs…or rather when conflict
occurs, then we, as leaders, must take appropriate
action to resolve the conflict in meaningful and
positive ways
• We begin by making sure that we understand
Resolving Conflict
Is conflict good?
Is conflict bad?
How we understand & respond to conflict is the key
Resolving Conflict
Avoid blame game
Avoid getting emotional
Do not take it personally
Effective listening, understanding and
communication skills
• Make it clear you are there to help
Resolving Conflict
• Operationally defining conflict as a state of
unresolved differences:
– Within an individual
– Between individuals
– An individual and a group
– Or two or more groups
• Based on caring about something
– Difficulty getting or giving something
– Between two or more people, locked in an
interdependent relationship
– What one party does affects the other party
Simplest Way to Resolve Conflict
• Eliminate the relationship
– Leave the interdependent relationship
– Refuse to interact with the other person(s)
• In many situations this is not practical
• As charter school leaders, this is not usually
• Therefore, we must learn how to address and deal
with conflict
Types & Sources of Organizational Conflicts
• Interpersonal
– Exists when people interact in ways to try and achieve goals and
– They have different attitudes, personalities, values, backgrounds
and experiences
• Competition for and/or management of resources
– Limited resources
– Resource decision making
• Standardized Operating Procedures (SOPs)
– Controls to manage behavior
– Resistance to rules
• Line-Staff Relationships
– Authority issues
– Resistance to control
• Different Understandings of Goals
Five Ways to Deal With Conflict
Positional Power
Issues are not addressed
• Use if – The issues or timing is not critical; a cooling
off period is required for both parties; and more
information is needed is needed to resolve conflict
• Do not use if –The situation requires immediate
attention or when one party remains frustrated by
the avoidance of the issue
Positional Power
• Use if – Swift action is needed in resolving the
• Do not use if - Concern for the parties involved is
not clear and the consequences of the action taken
have not been considered
Low on assertiveness, but high on cooperation
• Use if – it will allow for a better position to be
heard; the preservation of the relationship is more
important than the issue; or, the most important
one, you are wrong.
• Do not use if – the issue is significant and must be
resolved sooner than later
Moderately cooperative and assertive
• Use if – The issue or goal is of moderate importance
and both parties involved feel a compromise would
help in the resolution.
• Do not use if – Only one party is willing to give up
something. Negotiation is not possible.
Win-Win Approach
• Use if – There are shared values or goals, time is
available and the power among the parties is
balanced; also if there is effective communication
and the concerns are too important to compromise
• Do not use if – There is no balance of power
between the parties, the values and goals are not
shared, or poor communication exists between the
Charter School Conflicts
• Tension among board members
• Power, accountability and control:
– Principal & Board
– Principal, Board & Sponsoring District
– Principal & Teachers
– Principal & Parents
– Teachers & Parents
– Teachers & Students
Conflict Situations Discussion
• What are some conflict situations in your
charter school?
• What do you think is causing these conflict
Strategies for Your Toolkit
• Strategy 1: Avoid Emotional High Jacking
• Strategy 2: Prevent Conflict
• Strategy 3: Resolve Conflict
Sequential Process
Strategy 1
Strategy 2
Strategy 3

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