3 child care teachers smile.

Recognizing and Addressing Office Conflicts in your Childcare Center

Childcare centers, like any other business, are bound to experience staff conflicts and confrontations at some point. They can cause grudges and take the momentum out of any day – the key is learning how to identify, address and learn as a group from those issues without letting them cause major disruptions in your childcare center. 

Conflict can be beneficial to your center, inspiring and encouraging change, innovation and progress, and as a leader, your employees will often look to you to facilitate the process and guide them to the positives that can stem from an issue. We’ve put together a list of some common issues that can lead to workplace conflicts and some tips on remedying the situation to help keep your childcare center running smoothly!

Common Sources of Conflict in Childcare Centers

Teachers discuss a file as a group.

A Lack of Clarity & Communication

Whether it be about their duties in a position or specific tasks throughout the day, a lack of clarity can lead to confusion and disruption for everyone involved. Setting clear boundaries and expectations for employees can help nip this issue in the bud, before it even begins. Keeping an open line of communication with your staff can also help! Encourage them to ask questions when needed and double check if they are unsure about anything. More communication upfront will always lead to less confusion and conflicts in the long run.

Unclear Chain of Command

Building off of our previous point, a clear chain of command can help your childcare center avoid arguments about responsibility and eliminate a large amount of “office politics” that can happen over time. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities with organization charts and access rights gives everyone the tools they need to succeed and a point person to go to when they need help or direction. Though everyone’s opinion and voice matters, it’s important to have a person designated to make decisions.

Misaligned Goals

It’s important for you and your employees to have goals. They can help them grow and build their professional skills, which can benefit them and your center. However, when a team member puts their personal goals ahead of the goals of the organization or they do not align with the company, problems can arise. It’s important to remind the entire team (yourself included) of how important it is to maintain focus on your organizational goals.

Keeping your eye on these common sources of conflict can help you do three things:
1) Minimize negativity.
2) Benefit from the healthy collaboration they can inspire.
3) Identify potential larger issues that may be on the verge of erupting.

Tips for Conflict Management

A teacher smiles as her students work behind her.

In the moment, staff conflicts can be overwhelming but addressing the issue head-on will lead to better outcomes for everyone involved. Remember these tips next time an issue comes up with your staff:

  • Seek out the cause of the conflict and its point of origin.
  • Keep an open mind:
    • Ask questions like “How do we find a compromise in this situation? What can we do to prevent this issue from happening again in the future?”
  • Lead by Example:
    • Approaching the situation in a calm, factual way can help others to match your energy and follow your lead. Others may work out future issues in the same way without needing you to supervise.
  • Provide honest feedback to the parties involved on their results and responses.

Conflict is more of a question of “when,” not “if”, so being prepared is always a good idea. Aside from our tips, there are online and onsite resources that offer conflict resolution training that can be especially helpful if you’re experiencing an uptick in issues. It can be a worthy investment in the workplace, your employees’ well-being and the experience your families and students have with your center.

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