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Seven Strategies to Manage Conflict for ECEs Working in a Multi-Cultural Workplace

February 10, 2016

I had the pleasure meeting with Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) last night to provide a workshop on working with multi-generational staff. Many ECEs work in a socially complex environment. The individual differences they experience are far more numerous and may be experienced more intensely than those in other work environments.

Given the workshop took place in Brampton, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, the issues addressed included not only multi-generational issues, but multi-cultural too. Toronto boasts some 200 ethnicities and Brampton is the micro-culture to the macro-culture that is Toronto. So with that, we covered a range of differences between people that can give rise to inter-personal conflict.

As is always the case for this particular presentation, there is a sense that those in attendance are looking for a way to get the other person to change such that conflict could be resolved. However as attendees are to learn, change starts with us, not the other.

After learning of the issues that some face, a number of strategies were shared to improve relationships where cultural or generational differences may contribute to the challenge of getting along.

I identified more than ten strategies including:

  1. Managing one’s own ego to eschew defensiveness;
  2. Seek data over personality (some of the issues regarded the management of the children and I advised that rather than making the issues personal, staff could derive behavioral data from which to make empirical decisions);
  3. Acknowledge what may be cultural differences to the issue and seek to understand the difference as opposed to reacting to it from a good/bad perspective;
  4. As in any tug of war, be the first to let go and see what happens;
  5. Acknowledge the upset and stress upon the relationship in an empathetic way that suggests neither person is bad or to blame and respects that both would want to get along peacefully;
  6. Seek to learn what may be underneath the other person’s view without questioning motives or thinking either has any bad intention;
  7. Both agree to use a respected neutral third party to facilitate your discussion.

I also shared a number of personal stories, the result of my cultural heritage (of Polish and Russian decent even though Canadian) and how my cultural norms played into interpersonal conflict.

In the end, the best strategy for managing interpersonal conflict that may be magnified or the result of cultural or generational differences is to raise the level of one’s own insight with regard to expectations of others and then to learn more about the other person’s background and expectations. Respectful learning of each others way of doing things can then lend itself to finding common solutions.

Great workshop and remarkable participation!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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