Elementary school principals' micropolitical perspectives on interactions with parents
Usry, Susan May
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The purpose of this study was to examine the micropolitical strategies used by elementary principals when interacting with parents. Symbolic interactionism was the theoretical framework for the study, and grounded theory was the methodology. On-site interviews, observations, field notes, and document reviews were the primary data sources. Constant comparative analysis was used to analyze the data as well as to generate theory grounded in the data. Principals were found to have two types of interactions with parents: formal and informal. Each type of interaction has two subcategories, anticipated and unanticipated. Principals used four micropolitical strategies in their interactions with parents. The first, exhibiting a welcoming demeanor, involves all actions principals use to make parents feel welcome when entering the school or meeting with administration. The second, creating a climate of respect, involves two premises: giving and receiving basic respect. The third, establishing and maintaining communication, involves the manner and way in which principals stay in contact with parents. The final strategy, building relationships, involves the steps or actions principals take to establish a relationship with parents. Principals’ use of these strategies influenced the resolution of any conflictual interaction. Three possible effects resulted from use of these strategies: finding a resolution, strengthening the relationship, and/or reaching an impasse. When successful resolution is achieved, the relationship between the school and home is usually strengthened. When the principal is unsuccessful in attempts to arrive at resolution, an impasse is reached. In this case, the parties either agree to walk away or the issue is referred higher up the chain of command. A theoretical framework revealed by the study is also discussed. Implicit in the theoretical framework is the idea that principals effectively implement micropolitical strategies to reach successful resolution of conflict. In using micropolitical strategies identified in this study, principals sought to influence interactions to achieve positive resolutions of conflicts. Implications for future research are discussed and include possibilities for investigation into nonverbal cues. Implications for practitioners, as well as for university personnel, are presented. Practitioners must be aware of types of parental interactions in which they engage and must also be conscious of micropolitical strategies they employ. University personnel should include a study of micropolitics in their preparatory programs so that principal candidates are knowledgeable in the use and effects of such conflict resolution strategies.