By Becky Domokos-Bays, PhD, RD, SNS | SNA President 2017-01-31 17:44:48
Managing Conflict: Think Positively and Act Proactively When I discovered SN was covering conflict management this month, I thought, “Oh no—I know it’s an important topic, but I don’t want to write about the negative.” I was conflicted! But then I began thinking of practices that enrich the workplace, in part because they can prevent some conflicts that naturally happen when people come together. I am constantly trying to become better at listening to others; it’s not one of my best skills. But when I truly listen, I have an open mind, rather than allowing preexisting beliefs to cloud the conversation. In listening, I can hear other ideas and be influenced by a collective wisdom. It has been one of my great privileges to work in school districts rich in cultural diversity. In many of my kitchen teams, every member comes from a different heritage! Sincere interest in the traditions and values of others leads to greater understanding and can create a workplace where all know they are valued. This directly leads to better service to our student customers. Leading an association, whether it’s our national SNA or one of its state affiliates, requires conflict management skills. Every voice is important in addressing important issues, but those voices aren’t always in harmony. We can, however, manage potential conflict with some simple steps. At SNA Board of Directors meetings, we typically sit at round tables to facilitate interaction. Members are expected to read provided background materials before the meeting. Everyone has an obligation to share their opinions, because robust discussions that explore various perspectives lead to better decisions. Once a vote is tallied, every board member has a responsibility to support the decision of the whole group; it is not in the best interest of the organization to undercut that decision and that solidarity when facing our members and the public. These practices are reviewed in an annual board orientation, which itself is an excellent tool to help manage expectations and avoid serious conflict. Whether you lead a group at work or as a volunteer, keep an open mind about your current practices and consider how you might adapt these based on the strategies you discover in this magazine. Conflict is a natural part of relationships—but you don’t have to make it the hallmark of your interactions. Keep honing your skills to manage conflict effectively.
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