Conflict resolution skills: Rethinking teacher training pt1

There’s a teacher crisis going on, and we should look to business conflict management, says Esther Efemini.

All young people are capable. To help them make the most of their talents, it is important to have many means of recognising and celebrating their strengths ( SGI USA 2015 pg )

Conflict definition

Conflict is inevitable and part of life. Tschannen-Moran (2001) describes conflict as a form of discord, disagreement occurring between individuals or a group of individuals. Our behaviour, our responses and our communications ascertain whether the conflict remains constructive or destructive.

Cost of conflict

The Centre of Dispute Resolution reports that 1/3 of managers would prefer to do a parachute jump out of a plane than have a difficult conversation. The CIPD report 370m working days are lost each year as a result of conflict (OPP 2008). 

Absenteeism and turnover is also a conflict related cost. Twenty seven percent of employees have observed conflicts lead to personal attacks (Short, 2016). CEDR state that conflict management training prevents £600,000 in legal costs, three years salary and 1000 hours of management time. The CBI estimates that conflict costs UK business £33bn a year (TCM, 2017).

Of those companies who have had conflict resolution training or had used mediation 41% reported that the training resulted in a better understanding of people

Conflict and culture

85% of employees are dealing with conflict at some level (Liddle, 2016). Management spend 64% of their time managing conflict disputes every month (TCM,2017). Research on Workplace Conflict highlighted 53% of organisations identified themselves has being reactive towards managing conflict. 

David Liddle, a leading expert on resolution skills management, states that conflict avoidance is the most commonly used strategy of conflict management in organisations. These organisations were more likely to experience a reduction in employment engagement. Senior managers report over 1/5 disagreements are a result of a communication breakdown (TCM, 2017).

By 2020, more than half a million UK workers will be significantly held back by a lack of soft skills, an issue guaranteed to affect all sectors. At the same time, soft skills contribute £88bn to the UK economy, with this contribution forecast to increase to £109bn during the next five years.

97% of UK employers believe soft skills are important to their current business success, and more than half say communication skills and team work are more important than traditional academic results. However, three- quarters believe there is already a soft skills gap in the UK work force (TCM 2017).

An OPP, 2008 report examined training by country and found that in the UK found 14% of managers had conflict management as part of their leadership training. Only 12% of managers took conflict management training as a part of a formal course. 

Of those companies who have had conflict resolution training or had used mediation 41% reported that the training resulted in a better understanding of people and 33% stated that they had experienced an improvement in their working relationships.

Behaviour management

The convolution of conflict has resulted in various definitions constructed by people’s perceptions and attitudes. Conflict in schools takes on a different construct and culture of resolving conflict can vary from school to school.

School conflicts range from lack of resources, unresolved complaints, and head teachers may employ an authoritarian approach (Goksoy and Turkiye 2016). Teachers are constantly under pressure due to demanding workloads and pressurised environments (Espinoza, 2015). Poorly managed conflict can also prevent the school from achieving its objectives (Shahmohammadi, 2014).

Goksoy and Turkiye’s (2016) research on teachers’ perceptions of conflicts, reasons behind them; their impact and responses to conflict found that teachers who experience conflicts have negative feelings such as disappointment, stress, uneasiness and may dislike the profession and have low motivation and morale

In recent years challenging behaviour has escalated in the classroom and has been a cause of concern. A report by Ofsted, ‘below the radar: low-level disruption’, reported that 38 days of teaching time is lost due to indiscipline (Paton, 2014). Secondary schools are seen to have more problems with poor behaviour, increasing from 21% to 28% since 2012 (Paton, 2014).

A survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers reported that 62% of staff cited that there are now more children with behavioural, emotional and mental health problems.(Townsend, 2013). 42% of teachers stated that they suffered stress and almost a quarter said they had lost confidence at work (Townsend,2013).

The teaching crisis has deepened with nearly one in ten teachers leaving the teaching profession last year; the highest proportion in the last ten years (Scott, 2016). It is reported that a third of teachers will leave the profession within three years (Scott, 2016).

A report, ‘Why Teach’ (2015) conducted by LKMco and Pearson, cites 76% of teachers reporting that increasing workloads are a key reason for leaving the teaching profession with 50% of teachers reporting they worked more than 55 hours per week (Adam, 2017).

Followed by being unhappy with the quality of leadership and management, 27% of teachers reported that they had left the teaching profession due to disruptive or challenging behaviour (Short,2010).

Part two will be published next week. You can find references for this feature here


About the author

Esther graduated from Middlesex University with a degree in psychology and criminology and went on to do a masters. More recently her interests lie in Conflict Management Skills for trainee teachers. Esther is a trained Community Mediator.


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