Conflict makes people uncomfortable. Knots in the stomach, sweaty palms, stammered words. It's not what most school leaders signed up for . . . and it's getting worse every month.
Conflict has always been part of the school landscape. There are lots of reasons: differences of opinion of what's best for young people, limited resources and many more. The result is often a toxic school environment, knee jerk resistance to school improvement efforts, and elevated stress levels. Another consequence is conflict avoidance. Believing conflict belies a dysfunctional organization and wishing to avoid discomfort, some administrators simply avoid "big issues" that spark disagreement. That's one reason (out of many) that race and equity disparities persist in America's schools.
And yet, leadership strategies to transform conflict into collaboration are available. Reams of literature from the fields of organizational psychology, business, engineering and peace studies suggest skillful conflict management actually produces positive outcomes. Stakeholders feel heard, underlying issues are surfaced, groups acquire confidence in their ability to collaboratively problem solve.
We've devoted the last several years to studying conflict in education, writing a book, magazine articles and blogs, and presenting to audiences of school leaders from Southern California to New England. Like all skills, "conflict agility" can be learned once you're empowered with knowledge.
Use the dropdown menu to access our articles, blog posts and podcasts, and sign up for our mailing list to keep yourself informed. We've seen practices in From Conflict to Collaboration writing and workshops reshape school culture and build capacity for positive and continuous change.