Conflict on the Job

Strategies for communication vary by personal and agency culture, types of relationships, status, personal history and history behind particular interpersonal dynamics.

While win-win efforts are indeed the best possible outcome, they are actually quite rare.  Whether in progressive, grass-roots efforts such as the Occupy Movement, in union-management negotiations at Head Start programs, or in advocacy efforts to fund early care and education – win-win scenarios are hard to come by.

So while I might, for the sake of gaining favor with colleagues and professors promote the non-violent communication take-aways from this week’s readings as strategies I will utilize, such may not necessarily be the case.

Obviously, as someone that has survived as long as I have in the field, I do command some skills in non-violent communication – I am better known, however, for my open letters, rants, and verbal “grenades”.  Just as there are no real win-win scenarios in sports and politics – when the future of children and families is at stake, we may be doing them a disservice  when we avoid more aggressive tactics.

My boss sometimes reminds me that I can “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  I’m not trying to catch flies.  I’m not making sweet tea.  I’m fighting for childhood as we once knew it.  I can hold my tongue.  Today, at a county meeting of ECE advocates, a woman from a Head Start was telling of how the children were using smart boards and how they were considering tablets.  I wanted to scream.  Instead, I said, “I’m from the Beach Cities AEYC Affiliate that wrote a letter of opposition to technology to NAEYC.”  There was no way I was going to remain silent.  I had no expectation of anything reciprocal.  I was acting as an advocate.  An early domino.  Maybe if enough people challenge the use of smart boards in ECE classrooms, the message will be heard.  But if we don’t challenge ill-advised trends out of respect or in the quest of positive relationships with colleagues – we have sold out the children that need our voices to be unwavering.

Smart boards in ECE are just plain absurd.  Tablets?  Absurd.  Imagine what those dollars might buy in the way of staff training, clay, sand, paint, trikes, blocks, school gardens… My relationship with others isn’t worth the cost to potentially hundreds of children impacted each year by a single bad idea.

This means that I can get furious at meetings.  And others know it.  It’s palpable.  More than a few times, others have caught up with me in the hallways afterwards and said, “I’m glad you spoke out.  You said what others have been thinking.”  I’ll get written up.  But the momentum shifts.  Social change is not fueled by good manners… not even by good research.  Social change is fueled by the will of the people.

“If you can’t take the heat, stay outta the kitchen.”

“If ya don’t know, ya betta’ ask someone.”


2 thoughts on “Conflict on the Job

  1. Andrea says:

    Hi Gregory, I can agree sometimes aggressive and assertiveness in a proper matter gets things done. I’ve been in situations where a compromise is not an option when it comes to the children and families well-being. For instance, in the Early Head Start classrooms I monitor the nutrition, health, and safety issues in the classrooms. I had a teacher that was not following the proper sanitation process according to EHS standards and the state guidelines. I had to be assertive to ensure the issue would be corrected, no compromise. Overall, I understand your opinion.

    Thanks for Sharing!

  2. Shira says:

    I applaud your passion to the early childhood field, and I completely agree that children are worth fighting for. I have heard the saying, “First try honey, and if that doesn’t work, you may need the vinegar.” I don’t think you should water down your passion, but maybe take a step back before you engage to make sure that they can handle your intensity. But I will say I am glad there are people like you who aren’t afraid to fight for the future of our children, thank you,

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