Whatever type of school or learning institution you are running, it is bound to be the case that conflicts are going to occur somewhere along the way. The ways in which these are handled can be defining for your school. If they are left unchecked, all sorts of other associated problems can occur further down the line. Not only this, but this can also lead to a stain on your reputation that is highly difficult to recover from. Conflict resolution strategies are varied, but there are some defining themes that run throughout them, and it is these that are going to be focused on in a higher level of detail in the following blog post. This way, you have a much clearer idea of what you can do, as well as a blueprint that can be followed in the closest and best way possible. So, let’s get started on this journey into conflict resolution in a school setting.
Come Up with a Clear Conflict Resolution Strategy
First and foremost, you are certainly going to need to have a clear strategy and blueprint that you can use in terms of conflict resolution. This way, new members of staff can come on board and learn quickly about the ways in which disputes are dealt with. Not only this, but if you are doing things ‘by the book’ and you have a tried and tested strategy, there is simply no point in going off-piste with different techniques that may not work. Of course, at the same time, you certainly need to be in the habit of updating and reviewing this strategy from time to time as new thinking is done in the field of conflict resolution, and different research comes into a sharper level of focus. Not only this, but you could also look to send yourself or other staff members on courses that look at conflict resolution in schools and the different ways in which they can be handled in the most effective manner possible. After all, there is always going to be scope for learning and development – no matter how long you have been involved in the field.
Focus on the Problem and Not the Personalities
A major issue that people have in a learning setting is that they simply focus on the personalities involved in the conflict and not the specific problem itself. At a deeper level, this means that because somebody is often involved in different disputes, they then try to therapize them too much. Not only this, but it can also lead to a situation in which blame is automatically apportioned rather than listening and responding to the evidence that is provided. Essentially, this means being able to take on a facts-based approach to any issues that arise. This way, nobody is going to feel like they are being harshly treated, and you are listening to both sides of the story in the most impartial way that you possibly can.
Be Straightforward and Direct
If there is a serious problem taking place, it is not going to do anybody any favors to simply sugarcoat it and pretend that nothing is wrong. This certainly means that you need to take on a straightforward and direct approach in terms of your communication style. Of course, this does not mean that you should be overly harsh, but you need to be able to issue your assessment in a way that is as direct as possible. If there is a wider issue at play and more needs to be done from the point of view of addressing the issue, there is no doubt that steps will need to be taken that are beyond conflict resolution, which is why it is so important that you have a conflict resolution strategy that is integrated with the rest of your approach.
Keep a High Level of Confidentiality in Your Discussions and Decisions
One of the most important duties that you need to take seriously in terms of conflict resolution is being able to maintain a high level of confidentiality in everything that is being discussed or decided. This is important from a pastoral duty of care point of view but also in all that is being set out in terms of your conflict resolution strategy. It could also have a negative impact on terms of what you are able to do in the future. After all, if it is found that confidential information is being leaked out, this could have a wide impact in terms of what happens to the school from a legal standpoint. It also may mean that other students feel less comfortable coming out and discussing their conflicts out in the open as they feel like they are always on the verge of being leaked out.
Look for Participants to Come Up with the Solutions
It is also a major mistake to simply dictate a solution to the participants involved. Instead, you should be looking to help them come up with their own solutions with one another. This way, they are going to have the tools to be able to deal with further disputes rather than needing your intervention each and every time. Remember, you should be acting as a mediator rather than someone who has the divine right to be able to intervene whenever an issue arises. Of course, you can certainly steer them in the right direction in terms of being able to come up with a solution based on the training that you have received in conflict resolution and the current thinking that is being done.
Make it Clear that You Will Continue to Review the Situation
Of course, at the end of a conflict resolution meeting, this does not simply mean that all of the issues have disappeared. Therefore, you need to make it clear to everybody involved that you are going to continue your monitoring and reviewing of the situation. If there is more that needs to be done from a disciplining standpoint, you need to be ready to communicate and make these steps. It may be that one of the participants in the conflict resolution has clear and obvious targets that they need to adjust and improve their behavior in the future. This is something that should be followed up in terms of ensuring that this is happening.
Avoid Jumping to Conclusions
Even if you have dealt with the same type of conflict time and time again in days gone by, this does not mean that the same issue has occurred here. In fact, you are certainly going to be better off not jumping to any conclusions and allowing yourself to have a sense of impartiality that you carry along with you throughout any future mediations that you take part in. This is something that tends to come through experience anyway, but if it is a lesson that you are able to learn and develop sooner rather than later, this is going to be all the better in terms of your conflict resolution activities.
Aim to Get Responsibility Taken
One of the central components of a successful conflict resolution strategy involves the different parties being willing and able to take responsibility for their actions, and there is no doubt that this can go such a long way towards making all the difference in future occasions. Ultimately, if a party has not taken responsibility for their actions, it is only too possible that they are going to end up repeating them time and time again. Obviously, this is the exact opposite of the situation that you were planning for and the one that you were intending on occurring.
Work on Practice Scenarios with Other Staff Members
No matter what role within a school or a university that you work in, it is often the case that conflict resolution abilities are going to be at the very heart of everything that you are doing. With this in mind, it is going to be more than worth going through some practice scenarios alongside your staff members as this can help to equip them with the type of skills and necessary temperament that is going to be used when the real conflict start to occur. Ultimately, having these sorts of events on a regular basis is highly important when it comes to keeping the skills as fresh and as sharp as they possibly can be.
Conduct Regular Reviews of Your Conflict Resolution Strategy
Just because you have a conflict resolution strategy that is working at the moment does not mean that this will always be the case. So, it is certainly going to be important that you review your strategy to work out where you are able to make changes and improvements. All of these should be based on the evidence that has been gathered in the cases that have been handled up until this point. If you are going to make changes to your policy, it is highly important that you follow up on how well these are working and if what you initially saw as an improvement does not have the positive impact that you thought it would. It is also going to be important that these changes are being monitored and all staff members are actually taking the steps to follow them through.
Resolving conflicts in a school setting is certainly something that needs to be taken seriously, and this begins with the initial implementation of a strategy and procedures that are to be followed by every single member of staff. Whatever happens, it is certainly the case that the problem is what needs to be focused on rather than the individual participants. Otherwise, this can lead to a situation in which bias occurs, and this is where complaints can happen further down the line. You always need to be straightforward and direct in your communication with all of the participants involved in the conflict resolution. At the same time, there is always going to be a level of confidentiality that needs to be upheld for both the protection of the students and the school as a whole.
In terms of the right way to go about conflict resolution, it should be firmly based on allowing each of the participants to come up with their own solutions rather than simply dictating to them and assuming that you are always going to know best. Of course, you will still need to follow up to ensure that all of these solutions are being maintained and are working in the way that they are supposed to. While it may be tempting to jump to conclusions and assume that you are able to work out exactly what happened, this is certainly worth avoiding as it tends to lead to an ultimately negative outcome that otherwise could well have been different. If you are able to get people to take responsibility for their actions, this is certainly an ideal that is worth striving towards each and every time.
By practicing new scenarios involving conflict resolution with different staff members, there is no doubt that it can help out in a big way when it comes to keeping skills as sharp as they possibly can be. Ultimately, even if you cannot simulate exactly what it is like in a real conflict resolution, the practice can help the other staff members provide real solutions and helpful advice that can prove invaluable in so many different ways.
Of course, a conflict resolution strategy should always be considered to be a constantly evolving process and not something that stays fixed in a single place. This way, you are always going to have the mindset that changes can be made and implemented as and when they are required to be updated, either by new governing practices or throughout your own development. Taking all of this advice into account will certainly help in a big way when it comes to conflict resolution and ensuring that it is properly practiced at your school, college, university, or other learning institution.