The perceptions of academic administrators in higher education about conflict handling styles

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Southern New Hampshire University
Conflict, and the methods by which conflict is handled in organizations, may lead to obstacles when solving problems or may contribute to constructive feedback and progress. In a higher education organization, interpersonal conflicts exist among faculty members, staff, and administrators. These conflicts may occur due to a variety of reason, including differences in work ideology, decisions, tasks, and resource allocation. Often, department administrators are charged with handling their own conflicts as well as handling and managing interpersonal conflicts between others. Therefore, it is vital for department leaders to understand conflict management and the different conflict handling styles. This study uses qualitative methodologies to examine how administrators in higher education perceive conflict handling within their organization. The results include seven primary themes about how administrators describe and develop conflict handling styles. Three major conclusions are presented in this research. First, higher education administrators would benefit from more formal training about how to handle conflicts. A second conclusion that was reached from the data in this study is that a chosen conflict style is dependent on the perceived situation. A third conclusion that was identified from this research is that emotional conflicts can result in unresolved conflicts that can negatively impact the culture of a department for a long period of time. (Author abstract)