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What to do when conflict erupts

In this article, we consider what to do when there is conflict in the working relationship, and how the significance of conflict varies.

Despite our best efforts, conflict can develop in any relationship, particularly where communication has not been attended to.

The significance of conflict varies.

Low-level dissatisfaction over practical issues

Wounded relationships are hurt by low-level dissatisfaction and concerns over practical issues (rather than personal problems).

If cared for, wounded relationships may heal and grow but if left unattended, relational wounds may deepen and grow, and wounded relationships may rupture over time. At worst, frustration may build to the point that relationships break or become ruptured. Less significant problems leave relationships wounded and in need of care.

Unsatisfactory working conditions

Ruptured relationships break under the stain of personal disagreements and practical problems. A disabled person may feel they have to dismiss their PA if they have concerns over their basic competency and safety. A PA may leave because they do not like being micro-managed, or because they do not agree with or respect the employer’s outlook or behaviour, or because they find the working conditions unsatisfactory.

We may feel totally unable to work with someone if they hold views that contradict or threaten our values.

Immediate rupture

Some behaviours can lead to immediate rupture. For example, breaches of trust, such as stealing or other dishonest or manipulative behaviour should be a major cause for concern.

Confidentiality is a red line for many disabled people who want to protect their privacy and do not want their assistant gossiping about them. Safety and abuse are a rarer problem, but obviously should lead to termination of employment.

Remedying conflict

Here, we are mainly concerned with situations that can be rescued. It is easier to keep an existing employee than to find, train and get used to a new one. Personal assistants do not want to lose their job and have to find a new one.

Above all, it is important to ensure that the PA workforce maintains numbers, and also that disabled people continue to benefit from the flexibility and empowerment achieved when PA relationships are running smoothly, rather than resorting to agencies which can undermine their autonomy and control.

Disabled people may find it difficult to ask for help. They have striven to be independent their whole life, so resorting to outside support may feel like an admission of failure.

If you’d like to learn more, check out the full online course from The University of East Anglia, below.

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The Role of Personal Assistants in Disability Support

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