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Introduction to Avoiding ‘Personal’ Sources of Conflict


Conflict can occur when a PA is not very good at their job or because an employer has a poor style of management, or lacks assertiveness. But it can also occur when there is a mismatch of personalities or values. We might call these ‘personal’ sources of conflict.

One obvious area is where the PA or the disabled person is racist, sexist or homophobic, or holds incompatible views on a contentious area like Brexit or Scottish Independence. We all have different values and beliefs. For example, religious and spiritual views, and even competing sporting allegiances. Assuming these views are not highly extreme and offensive, this does not usually stop people being colleagues. But it might stop people being friends, unless they agree to avoid contentious areas.

If the disabled person and personal assistant have a formal staff/employer type relationship, this might not be an issue, because there is little place for personal disclosure. But if the relationship is more like ‘paid friend’ or even ‘family’, then there may be difficulties, because of the greater openness and informality. Sometimes, because the disabled person is isolated, they may seek friendship and ‘over-disclose’ private thoughts and feelings to their PA.

Is it appropriate for a PA to express his or her views in their employers’ home? How easy might it be to suppress your own views to avoid conflict occurring?

But it may also be a difference of personality type. For example, a PA may work for someone who is mean and angry, and they might find this very traumatic. However, when they discuss the problem with their employer, she explains that her anger is due to anxiety. Despite the explanation, the worker is unable to continue in her role as PA with this individual. Or the differences may be less dramatic, but still, people feel unable to get along with each other.

The practical issue for the PA relationship is how do you take someone else’s values and preferences into account without sacrificing your own?

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The Role of Personal Assistants in Disability Support

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