Conflict At Work Essay
When we fail to address a curricular problem, we allow the problem to persist.
When we neglect to revise important policies out of fear of the potential rancor of debate, our policies grow outdated and counterproductive. Boundaries between friends and colleagues are often fuzzy.
As someone who studies rhetoric, I am inclined to see argument as the means to resolve conflicts, and as something to be sought out, rather than avoided.
I am inclined to see disagreement and argument, when carried out in good faith, as productive endeavors.
For five or six years, the tenure-track junior faculty are bred to be meek.
Even more vulnerable contingent faculty, who are often on year-to-year or course-by-course contracts, are even more institutionally discouraged from addressing and resolving any conflicts that they find themselves party to.
Very often, I suspect, we avoid conflict for reasons that come from a good place, from our desire not to hurt our friends or sour our friendships.Many of us have been culturally trained to see argument as rude or at least uncomfortable.Basically, I think we’d all benefit from more argument when conflicts do occur, on the very important condition that the arguments be conducted in good faith, while listening to other involved parties, and with the mutual goal of arriving at a solution.All workplaces entail conflicts, of varying scales and of varying levels of importance or unimportance.One significant factor in the quality of our work lives is not so much whether conflict exists, but how it is handled within our departments and institutions.But we might also do damage — to ourselves and our careers, our colleagues, students, and institutions — by avoiding conflicts at all costs and thereby allowing important issues to go unresolved, to fester and continue their harm.We are all familiar with the trope of the notoriously cranky colleague who courts conflict — personal and professional — at every opportunity.When I think upon the moments when I have felt most burned as a graduate student, and more recently as a faculty member, often the moments are traceable back to a point in time when a superior or senior colleague of mine neglected to handle a small conflict, which then grew into an unnecessarily large conflict.Unaddressed, the metastasized problems became disproportionate to the original scope of the problem, and commensurately required more time and energy than might have otherwise been necessary to arrive at a point of stasis or resolution.With my admittedly limited and anecdotal experiences, I am increasingly convinced that an important quality for leadership, and perhaps even simply citizenship within our universities, is developing the skill of recognizing which conflicts to avoid and starve of their energy, and which conflicts to confront directly and resolve, however painfully, before they grow.Some of the conflicts that we neglect to resolve have the potential to become cancerous, growing silently, perhaps even initially unnoticed, but with potentially devastating manifestations.