Conflict is often presented as a key characteristic of academic life. For a department head it can offer a major challenge. Conventional accounts suggest that conflict can be approached in a rational and planned fashion. As a way of opening up some of the complexities encountered by department heads in dealing with conflict in practice, this chapter presents three ‘conflicting stories’. These broadly relate to interpersonal conflict, departmental conflict and institutional conflict. The three cases suggest that conflicts cannot always be neatly classified or defined but may instead run in many directions - sometimes over a considerable period of time. The chapter concludes with some cautious advice based on the author’s personal and practical experience of dealing with conflict in a variety of academic settings.
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