Positive Behavior Support & Workplace Conflict

Often when we are dealing with difficult behavior it has nothing to do with the people who are in care but rather with each other as staff.  If we truly want to tackle conflict in the workplace than the workplace should be structured around the ideas of positive behavior supports.  People outside of education often ask in our workshops, “what is positive behavior support?”  Positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) as defined by pbis.org is “an evidence-based three-tiered framework to improve and integrate all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes every day.  PBIS creates schools where all students succeed.”  What if we replaced the word student or student with staff or staffs and school with organization?

Tier 1 establishes systems that proactively support the behaviors we want to see.  These supports would go out to all staff and are the foundation for an organization practicing positive behavior interventions and supports.  They are the simple ways of treating each other with dignity and respect.  Establishing and reinforcing positive programs that support staff when doing expected behavior.  Making sure that our policies reflect our desire for staff success.  Ensuring a safe workplace that not only promotes physical safety but psychological and emotional safety as well.  Finally, analyzing data and creating avenues of success that super vent and proactively address issues that create typical conflicts in the workplace.  A positive behavior support origination would find keyways to identify causes of conflict in the workplace and build systems that daily support expected behaviors.

When addressing tier 2 issues in an organization the organization would have to identify those staff that are at a greater risk for developing problem behaviors and address those issues before they start.  Data should be collected from staff satisfaction surveys and individuals exit interviews to identify key factors for concern.  This level is all about creating skill support for staff, so they succeed in daily work actives.  This may be job specific training items or broader skills such as building healthy relationships, how to communicate effectively or conflict resolution techniques. This level is very important as many staff leave a position because they felt they were not given the necessary tools and training to perform the expected job.

Staff needing tier 3 support at an organizational level means concerns have probably been identified and had an impact in a negative way on some aspect of the organization.  This level will involve a more formal approach at trying to help the staff succeed while creating the necessary paper trail if the organization is unsuccessful at helping the staff succeed and need to move to extreme steps like termination.  This level could involve an employee assistance program, supervisor coaching sessions or some type of formalized training program outside of the organization.  The goal of a PBIS organization is to help the staff succeed while also realizing sometimes the issues are beyond the scope of what the organization can handle to maintain a safe working environment.

If organizations truly want to support staff than they need to incorporate the ideas of positive behavior support in all levels of the organization.  Conflict prevention starts by creating systems and structures that take away typical conflict issues and replaces them with positive behavior that is supported throughout the organization. Managing conflict in the workplace starts by managing the opportunities for staff to build healthy relationships with one another and their leadership.  The consequences of unresolved conflict in the workplace can be devastating to an organization so organizations must take a healthy and proactive approach to workplace conflict.  There is no better approach than a positive behavior support tiered approach!

Tim Geels – Director of Implementation and Governance

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