At the surface, it always becomes immediately apparent that the drive of egos have become more important than common sense. Yet, nobody at the institution at-conflict-with-itself will openly say it...staffers often know it but refuse to confirm it publicly. And because of this institutional denial, investigative teams are required to unravel the truth. This process can take a few days, weeks and in extreme cases, a few months. And after all the hours spent, the reports drafted and the recommendations made, what do we inevitably have as the number one causal factor? You guessed it...egos-in-the-room!
I am often amazed that an institution where the educators are well qualified, the bulk of the staff have more than 10 years of experience and have been working together in a supposed professional way, can implode spectacularly when senior staff head-butt! It is most disappointing to witness and generally has little to do with the wellbeing of children who attend the institution.
So what, in my experience, drives conflict at schools?
The word is commonly defined as "the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment." When there is upward movement of a staffer to a management position at the school, someone in the school often feels that they should automatically be next in line for upward mobility. In small communities, this notion is often cemented by the mistaken belief that job reservation must be enforced to allow only resident educators access to promotion.
Defined as "the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs". Nobody from "outside" should be allowed in. Those who support this approach sight issues like "only local educators understand our community" or "certain family names have over generations been the bastions in an area and this must be maintained" - never mind that they may have little-to-nothing to offer other than maintain the status quo.
Many promotion seekers are often disgruntled that they did not get the nod above-the-rest of those who applied or the nominee that rose-to-the-top. As a consequence, fire-and-brimstone must descend on the school and the place burn to the ground at every corner. The most minor of disagreements must be escalated with deafening noise and one is reminded that this would never have happened if the person in charge was not appointed.
Poor corporate governance.
Often conflict is fanned by school governors who are arrogant in their ignorance or simply unwilling to do what is right. They are easily influenced by all-and-sundry and happy to offer their allegiance to the loudest voice on the school. This belief is also underpinned by their unwillingness to compromise their own positions. Governance is power and how some governors enjoy the possibility to exercise it!
No staff development programmes.
School that often suffer under conflict have very little exposure for the staff to staff development. Often this is purposefully done so that managers won't have to deal with staff who know too much. After all, ignorance is bliss!
No culture of debate or discourse.
Strict hierarchical structures are maintained with appropriate apportionment of rules and privileges. The trough is too small for everybody to feed from at once. Growth at the lower levels of the school is actively stunted.
No strategic direction.
There simply isn't a plan around any aspect of the school that has whole school buy-in. If there is one, the plan only sits in-the-head of the senior manager. So challengers of the school's direction invariably fight with the headmaster! Things quickly go downhill from there.
I'm sure you can think of more indicators. If you have, do leave a comment.
*Picture sourced via Google images