An Examination of Conflict and Crisis Management From An Administrative View

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The foundation of any discussion on conflict and crisis management must be established by creating a frame of reference on interpersonal and intergroup conflict.

In this regard, Gorton and Alston (2009) assert, “Interpersonal and intergroup conflict occurs to some extent in all organizations and are a natural part of social relationships” (p. 123). Consequently, the administrator’s role is put these nuances in their proper perspective through the explication of individual role behaviors, personality differences, personal and personnel needs, culture, and the management of expectations. In fact, Gorton and Alston (2009) are careful to emphasize the importance of understanding the expectations concept, “The need for the administrator to identify and understand the role of expectations of others cannot be overemphasized” (p. 125). In this respect, the effectiveness of individual administrators is a function of understanding the three key principles, direction, clarity, and intensity (Gorton & Alston, 2009). Moreover, the critical variable to be understood concerning direction is “the nature of the situation” (p. 126), and clarity is pivotal to understanding and interpreting stakeholder expectation. From a conceptual perspective, intensity focuses on “continuous efforts to ascertain the intensity of the expectations of individuals and groups” (p. 133).

Gorton and Alston (2009) refer to Lindelow and Scott to effectively postulate four primary sources of social conflict within the school environment: poor communication, organizational structure, human factors, and limited resources (Gorton & Alston, 2009). Using these conflict sources as a springboard, the authors note, “The theoretical and research literature on initiating conflict is limited” (p. 134). To this end, they outline a few examples as to how they perceive this controversial insight. In other words, it is not often perceived that conflict should be initiated, rather that no effort should be spared to resolve conflict. On this wise, the authors cite Gross in support of illustrating the various pathways and conditions, which attend the conflict resolution process. In support of its complexity, Gorton and Alston (2009) note, “An understanding on the part of the administrator of both the legitimacy of the role expectations and potency of the sanctions associated with noncompliance is essential for the successful resolution of any role conflict” (p. 135).

In outlining other approaches to conflict resolution, the administrative effectiveness of employing cooperative and confirming approaches, as opposed to competitive and avoiding are crystallized.

Gorton and Alston (2009) elaborate on conflict management techniques, particularly through the implementation of the contingency approach in conjunction with analyzing the nature of the conflict. Using Utley, Richardson, and Pilkington to cite an alternative view, Gorton and Alston (2009) note, “When administrators attempted to resolve interpersonal conflict, personality factors played less of a role than did situational or conflict target factors such as professor, parent, or friend” (p. 137). Other approaches introduced include power struggle bargaining, which has the potential to destroy personal and professional relationships, primarily due to its adversarial approach. Most emphatically, it must be stated that conflict avoidance may involve the use of strategies such as withdrawal, indifference, isolation, and smoothing over (Gorton & Alston, 2009).

In conclusion, from a clinical perspective, the problem-solving approach is recommended.

At its corpus, is early identification through the implementation of a seven- step system advanced by Kirtman and Minkoff. It is followed by a conflict diagnosis, which is buttressed on administrative and leadership openness and objectivity. The major objective is the use of open and honest communication as the primary vehicle to develop among the conflict parties a climate of trust and mutual respect (Gorton & Alston, 2009). In this regard, Gorton and Alston (2009), further suggest meeting with the conflicting parties separately, “because parties to a conflict are likely to have a negative attitude toward each other, it is recommended that the administrator acting as a mediator attempt, in the early stages of trying to resolve the conflict, to meet each side separately to the extent possible” (p. 140). Lastly, emphasis is placed on rhetoric reduction and clinical fact finding in efforts to attain sustainable integrative solutions to conflict. However, for these efforts to be realistic there is a need for compromise by opposing parties, failing which, the advancement of counterproposals, and ultimately arbitration would ensue.


Gorton, R. & Alston, J. (2009). School leadership and administration. (8th ed.). New York: McGraw Hill