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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.
There are some situations in which we can merely avoid conflict, and it is by far the more prudent course of action to do so.
Conflicts of any variety should not be courted, nor pursued unnecessarily.
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.
I think that such fuzziness is common, and significantly complicates how we do and are able to respond to conflict within the workplace.
Leadership in the university itself is weird, as a faculty member may rotate into a position of authority, and simply rotate back into the ranks once that tour of duty is done.
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.