Conflict 101

January 29, 2015
Athletic trainers deal with conflict in the workplace just like many other professionals. With coworkers that can include national championship-winning coaches and athletic directors with seven-figure salaries, however, things can get a little more complicated. On Saturday morning, a panel presentation called, "Negative Encounters in the Workplace: Recognizing and Dealing with Various Forms of Conflict in Athletic Training Settings," aimed to address some of the tricky situations that can arise.

The first topic was, "What Happens When the Interests of an Organization and a Health Care Professional Working Within it Don't Match?" and was presented by William A. Pitney, EdD, ATC, FNATA, Professor in the Kinesiology and Physical Education Department at Northern Illinois University. An example of this conflict in action is when a coach and athletic trainer disagree on when an athlete can return to play following an injury. If the coach goes to the athletic director and the athletic director says the athlete should play, the athletic trainer is in a bind. Pitney suggests preventing these conflicts from occurring by allowing sports medicine staffs the final and unchallengeable authority when it comes to return-to-play decisions.

Stephanie Mazzerolle, PhD, ATC, Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut also spoke, with a presentation titled, "Workplace Conflict: Finding Work-Life Balance." Mazzerolle broke down some of the perceptions around athletic training environments--for example, that the high school setting is "less demanding" than college departments. However, the research does not back up this claim, and different aspects of the college, high school, and rehab clinic/hospital settings contribute in their own way to struggles with work-life balance.

Finally, Celest Weuve, PhD, ATC, CSCS, LAT, Assistant Program Director, Clinical Coordinator, Assistant Professor, and Assistant Athletic Trainer at Lincoln Memorial University presented about "Interpersonal Conflict in Athletic Training." Weuve talked a lot about how athletic trainers lack "soft skills" necessary to their profession. She said that all athletic training students graduate with the knowledge to treat injuries, set up rehab protocols, etc., but few know the nuances of managing and coping with conflict. Like the other two speakers, Weuve offered tips on how athletic trainers can improve these soft skills and decrease their conflict in the workplace.

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