Conflict or collegiality?

conflict signWhere would you prefer to work? A workplace rife with conflict or an institution that reeks of collegiality? Easy answer, right? Yet we seem to have built cultures, particularly in higher education, that encourage conflict!

Robert Cipriano, Ed.D., professor and department chair at Southern Connecticut State University, has been researching, writing and consulting on collegiality for over a decade.  He reminds us that higher education is founded on bringing together people with divergent and conflicting ideas. No wonder there is dissent!

However, to succeed and tackle the challenges facing higher education today, Anita highlighted the importance of collaboration in her recent post. Or as Cipriano puts it, “we all can agree to disagree without being disagreeable” -what he calls “positive dissent.”

In his recent book, Facilitating a Collegial Department in Higher Education: Strategies for Success, Cipriano lists a set of key activities that leaders can take to build a collegial culture:

  • Help people achieve their goals
  • Develop a genuine interest in each team member
  • Treat people with respect and dignity – always
  • Remember that relationships built on trust and fed by personal integrity are the foundation
  • Recognize that poor behavior by others does not require you to respond in kind (but you do need to respond)
  • Model characteristics you wish to see in your team members
  • Acknowledge that leadership is more a function of people’s relationships than the position
  • Recognize people publicly for their achievements

When I read this list it all makes sense, yet as an old saying goes, common sense is not always common practice! Where do you have an opportunity to practice building a culture of collegiality?

Todd Thorsgaard

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