Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Elementary principals and conflict management: A critical incident study

Carmen Richelle Currey Zalman, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study was to identify the types of conflict elementary principals report experiencing and to identify the behaviors of the principals that led to successful or unsuccessful conflict management. ^ Data were gathered using the Critical Incident Technique. 32 elementary principals were asked to discuss two conflict situations in which they had been involved—one with a successful result, and one with an unsuccessful result. The principals then described the behaviors they exhibited during each situation. ^ The results indicated that the conflicts principals encounter fall into 3 categories: Conflict with parents, conflict with students, and conflict with staff. 58 critical incidents were reported. 21 of these incidents were in the category of “conflict with parents”, 20 in “conflict with students”, and 17 in “conflict with staff.” ^ The behaviors principals used when managing a conflict successfully include: gathered/provided information, intentional choices for meeting location, physical/verbal gestures, policy/law reminders, followed-up, positives discussed, set guidelines, met with individuals/group, timing, listening, empowering others, utilized outside resources, and developed a plan. ^ The behaviors principals used when managing a conflict unsuccessfully include: principal's inaccurate assumptions, one-sided decision-making, emotional reaction, did not set guidelines, principal's ineffective use of time, lack-of focus, and unwise communication skills. ^ Further research is needed in the following areas: identifying critical behaviors in the conflict situations principals encounter, the appropriate place of behavioral skill training in preparation programs, and research in the critical elements of listening. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Elementary

Recommended Citation

Currey Zalman, Carmen Richelle, "Elementary principals and conflict management: A critical incident study" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3022675.