Having conflict is stressful. Acutely.
But not having conflict is also stressful. Chronically.
However one of these has the opportunity to end the stress. Having the difficult conversation, tackling the issue, whilst stressful in itself, if done well can free you of the stress altogether.
And what’s more is that it takes the stress off the other person too.
The problem is most of us like to avoid conflict in the hope it will go away, or maybe someone else will deal with it. And that can work sometimes, but not as often as we hope. This means;
1. You are living with the stress.
2. The other person is more often than not also living with the stress of the issue.
3. The team around them are dealing with the stress.
4. And their class might not be getting the education you believe they deserve – and this is likely to be stressing you and others out further.
Yowzer! That’s a lot of stress!!!
A school I worked with had a teacher who was not delivering good lessons and not driving her subject forward.
The deputy met with the teacher Fiona to address the issue more successfully than previously. As it happens the meeting was on a Friday, something I would usually say is best avoided, but in this instance I think it actually helped because Fiona came back to work on Monday to a meeting with the head, who was following up on the meeting with the deputy. Fiona, having had time to think, told the head she had decided to leave the school.
Now my preference is always for a teacher to stay, I don’t train people in how to have successful difficult conversations so that people leave, I train it so that they stay and have enjoyable careers where they add value to their school. However this time Fiona leaving was a win/win: she told the head how she felt a weight had been lifted off her shoulders, how she was happier and she was going to find a role in another school which she would enjoy and be good at. Staff even noticed for weeks after the meeting how much happier Fiona looked.
Fiona hasn’t been happy, she was stressed, the school had been trying to help her improve but this wasn’t going well. Fiona leaving by her own choice and with dignity was clearly better for her and meant the school could now find someone who could fulfil their needs. And it removed the ongoing stress they were all feeling, especially Fiona.
As I said the ideal from my point of view is that the teacher or member of staff stays, however when it’s best for them to leave for the right reasons then that is the best solution.
Tip: Pick a conversation you have been avoiding and have it with the aim of removing the stress, for you and for the other person. It doesn’t have to be the worst conversation you have but one that is causing some grief. Now this is the important bit: think about why this conversation is an act of kindness, how are you trying to help by having it. This is conflict because you care and for me it’s the reason we have to have those difficult conversations. It really helps put you in a better frame of mind for that conversation which can go a long way in making it more successful.
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