PRINCIPALS’ CONFLICT MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES AND TEACHERS’ JOB PERFORMANCE IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS OF SOUTHERN SENATORIAL DISTRICT OF CROSS RIVER STATE, NIGERIA
1.1 Background of the study
The progress and quality of education is more or less dependent on the performance of teachers in schools. While many opinions abound as to what could be responsible for the much talked about lack of commitment by secondary school teachers, and the seeming fall in their performances, it has often too been suggested that part of the reason for these could be the result of the principals’ methods of managing conflict when they arise in schools. In other words, the assumption is that the way or technique adopted by the principal in resolving misunderstanding between teacher and teacher, student and teaches, student and teacher, inter-departmental squabbles etc can affect the way a teacher teachers, his involvement in student discipline, preparation of instructional materials, classroom management etc.
Conflict, defined by Parkes and Burges (1921:74) as “means of resolving divergent dualism” and Coser (1956:8) as “a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources” is, in the opinion of Krietner, Kinicki and Bueleus (2002:36) “an unavoidable aspect of modern life”. Thus continued the same source “learning to manage it is a critical investment in improving how we, our families and our organizations can take advantage of change”. Borne out of differences as held by D’souza (1989:37) in “perception, priority, expectation, goals, self esteem..” conflicts and the techniques for their management can influence job performance in the schools as well as the open society. Van Slycke and Stern (1991) support this position as they hold that proper knowledge of conflict management skills by principals can positively influence teachers’ job performance.
Webster’s dictionary of English Language defines performance as accomplishment measured against capability. This definition is aptly placed in the context of this research by Edem (1987:92) in providing indexes for teachers’ job performance to include “lesson planning which must be formulated with clear, valid, general and specific objectives in terms of changes in pupils’ behaviour, lesson delivery, development of ideas, evaluation etc”.
Kreitner et al., (2002:361) writing on effective use of conflict management techniques and its effect on teachers’ job performance said “effective conflict management helps us keep in touch with new developments and create solution appropriate for new threats and opportunities. In other words bad management of conflicts in schools can disconnect such schools from new developments and create problems instead of solutions in such schools, and this is bound to negatively affect teachers’ job performance.
The principal according to Edem (1987) is the leader or the administrator of secondary schools in Nigeria. As such he is also the center of decisions of which conflict forms an important aspect. He further says that as school leader, he has legal authority to protect his pupils against the excesses of teachers, and to settle conflicts between them and pupils. As already noted, principals’ techniques of managing conflict, which D’souza, (1989:388) present as: “domination, collaboration, compromise, accommodation and avoidance” definitely affect teachers’ job performance. When teachers’ job performances are negatively affected by principals’ conflict management, it becomes problematic, and can be demoralizing to teachers. This is because some negative tendencies mentioned by D’souza (1989:368) will play themselves out: “climate of suspicion, distrust, and reduction in contact between people which sometime may lead to cessation of communication”. These often result in resistance instead of teamwork, pursuance of self-interest rather than school objectives and finally general feeling of self-defeat by teachers’, embarrassment and demoralization. Impairment of relationship and general job dissatisfaction are the unavoidable end product in such organization. At its worst, it can lead to mass exodus of teachers seeking employment elsewhere because of hostile and unconducive work environment. It has also been noticed in recent times that the level of teachers’ commitment to official duties in schools had depreciated. Many regard this as signs of frustration due to perhaps conflicts in schools and the way