Conflict Resolution Strategies for Head Start Staff

Whenever two or more people work closely together, conflicts can arise. Head Start programs' staff members may find it helpful to use conflict resolution strategies to define and resolve problems, as well as prevent conflicts. Conflicts are less frequent when staff work in collaboration with each other, communicate effectively, share responsibilities, and contribute to decision making. It is recommended that staff use a strategy to prevent conflicts, revise it as needed, and evaluate its effectiveness on a regular basis.

The following is an excerpt from... 
Head Start Bulletin logo

by Derry Koralek, National Head Start Education Training Project

  • The staff member in charge of supplies refuses a teacher's request for more paints and paper, saying, "The children in your class use too many supplies. If I give you more now, we'll run out before the end of the year."
  • An angry staff member comes storming into the office, saying, "Who was handling the phones yesterday? I missed another important message."
  • A staff member asks her supervisor to transfer her to another position, saying, "I'm tired of being bossed around. I have a brain, and I want to use it."

Have conflicts like the above ever come up in your Head Start program?

Whenever two or more people work closely together, conflicts can arise. Head Start programs may find it helpful to use conflict resolution strategies to define and resolve problems. Staff should use a strategy, revise it as needed, and evaluate its effectiveness on a regular basis.

Hopefully your program minimizes conflicts by using effective communication techniques. Conflicts are less frequent when staff work in collaboration with each other, communicate effectively, share responsibilities, and contribute to decision making.

Following are some effective strategies for preventing conflicts:

  • Maintain a sense of humor. If you can learn to laugh at your own mistakes, other people are likely to laugh at theirs.
  • Be an effective communicator. Choose your words carefully and monitor the quality of your voice. Avoid words such as "always" and "never," sarcasm, jargon, and talking down to people. Use an appropriate pitch, tone, and level when communicating with others.
  • Assume that all people have positive, or good, intentions. When confused by another person's actions or words, ask yourself how you might feel or respond in the same situation.
  • Use positive techniques to handle your own stress. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, spend time with family and friends, and have some fun. Avoid "treating" yourself to snacks filled with fat, salt, and sugar; watching excessive amounts of television; or abusing alcohol or other drugs. Negative ways of handling stress can lead to health problems.
  • Avoid jumping to conclusions. Seek information about a situation or a colleague's action before making assumptions. There may be an explanation or legitimate reason why something did or did not take place.
  • Create an environment that supports staff, as well as children and parents. Make sure staff have private places where they can store their belongings, comfortable places where they can take a break from their duties, and a schedule which allows them opportunities for meeting personal needs.

Topic:Organizational Leadership

Keywords:Conflict resolutionParent-child relationshipsHuman resources

Resource Type: Article

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