V.3. Conflict Management
Usually, conflict is associated with a misunderstanding
or a disagreement between two or more individuals or groups with regard
to certain ideas, opinions, beliefs, interests, values etc.
Over the years, every one of us has entered into conflict
either with a member of our own family or with our schoolmates, colleagues,
business partners, or even with an unknown person. This conflictual
situation was overcome in the best way possible: either by ourselves
or with the help of other individuals who mediated the situation.
This part of the document is going to focus on the conflicts
that might appear at the institutional level where the adult education
process is concerned. Prevalent in these cases are potential conflicts
generated by the gaps that might appear between the program offer and
the requirements of the beneficiaries whose interests are not always
met up to the highest extent.
In order for this conflict not to turn real (so to prevent
them) the adult education institutions manager can periodically perform
a need analysis, can negotiate programs and support the program strategy.
Negotiation, in the case of adult education program providers, is highly
important. These negotiations involve an honest agreement beneficial
for both parties involved.
Robert Madduse (1998, p. 33) considers that a negotiation
supposes the following 6 steps:
By analyzing this algorithm we can easily notice that a
good negotiator is one who has interpersonal communication skills and
Certain conflictual circumstances and/or situations might
appear during the development of the adult education activity. Due to
the fact that various educational programs and activities are attended
by various individuals (difference in age, culture, training, interests,
skills) disagreements might appear with regard to the curricula, schedule,
evaluation system etc.
Also, these misunderstandings or differences of opinions
appear quite frequently between adult students and their instructors,
because of the differences that exist between their system of values,
between their teaching and learning styles and the way in which they
perceive the educational messages. Because of these situations adult
education providers must have knowledge and abilities pertaining to
various fields of activity. They need to have specialty knowledge, psychological
and pedagogical skills, sociological and managerial abilities, the emphasis
being placed on the communication and team work ones.
But, since we are talking about conflictual situations,
the prevalent position is given to the skills and abilities possessed
by the adult education program providers in what the conflict management
is concerned. In this sense, adult educators need to have not only abilities
in preventing and mitigating these conflicts that might result in a
vicious environment that leads to unsatisfactory results and conclusion
of the educational activities, but also knowledge with regard to strategies
that allow them to cope with conflicts that can not be solved or mitigated
and need to be managed for the benefit of the entire group and for the
respective educational program and activities.
Our present life takes place within structures (social,
functional) situated on various coordinates (data, facts, actions).
As members of a certain social group we act based on certain relationship
models, driven by interests and values that belong to ourselves or to
the social group we belong to.
In this case, certain elements might change, based on a
mutual agreement, in order to avoid a conflict. Interests might change
or might be rationally re-oriented through a better understanding of
facts and structures. Some structures might change if mutual interests
of the parties involved require this. Also, various issues might be
negotiated in order to reach various goals. Nevertheless, values cannot
be negotiated. Conflicts related to values and relationships are not
negotiable. We must learn to deal with them (conflict management). Negotiable
conflicts for which a solution can be found are located in the interests
and, partially, structures and data zone. Of course, there are various
strategies for approaching and solving conflicts. Some of them are referring
- Domination – that consists in solving conflicts
for the benefit of one party. In this case, the other party is totally
- Compromise – when both parties are partially
satisfied but none is fully content.
- Integration – this consists in mutually
adopting a new solution agreed by both parties.
In the first two cases, conflict is merely postponed and
can reappear in even more violent forms. The third case, the integration,
represents the ideal solution.