Steve is an experienced AP who works on a team with two talented and qualified school leaders, but there’s a tension in the team.
It’s a good tension built around ideological differences. It’s not about personalities or any wrong-doings.
However, Steve seeks to keep the peace and avoids addressing the tension. A few weeks pass by and the tension rises to the level of conflict. Yet Steve still chooses to ignore the conflict.
“I don’t think anything good will come from bringing it up,” he reasons, “Plus, I’m outnumbered.” So Steve harbors the tension and continues on.
Eventually, the conflict does exactly what conflict always does when left unaddressed – it festers.
We know that a festering tension is unhealthy. The real problem with festering conflict is not so much the harm it does to the person carrying it. The real harm is done to the health and performance of the team.
Just like a physical infection, it spreads.
Before long, Steve will cease to rationalize the conflict. He will lose sight of the underlying ideological tension. The festering tension will be the main focus – the pain, the undercurrent, and the friction.
The festering conflict will transfer to the people. Instead of a disagreement on principle or strategy, the transfer will make it about the people. The ax to grind will become personal. People, not ideas, will become the unfortunate targets for Steve. All because of a fester then transfer.
And that’s a recipe for team dysfunctions.
Conflict that festers is conflict that transfers. No team can afford that.