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Henry J.L.

Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

Establishing sound interpersonal


relationships among staff
in a Private higher education setting in South
Africa
Excerpt: Various authors such as van der Westhuizen (1997); Bilikopf (2001); Bryk &
Schneider (2003); Kane et al. (2004); Moolenaar et al. (2010); Christopherson et al. (2011);
and Bieler (2012) have addressed the importance of sound interpersonal relationships,
highlighting reasons such as establishing excellence in educational leadership, building
strong education communities, and enhancing teacher commitment, providing access to
information knowledge and expertise. Interpersonal relationships, furthermore leads to
trust, essential for school reform and school improvement. Many studies conducted, cover
the spectrum of relationships between educators and their students. The focus of this study
will however be on the relationship between the educators themselves and between
educators and education management.

7/7/2014

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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Table of contents

Page

1. Introduction..................................................................................................................1
2. Rationale .....................................................................................................................1
3. Problem statement ......................................................................................................2
4. Purpose statement .................................................................................................2 - 3
5. Literature review ..................................................................................................3 13
6. Research Questions ..........................................................................................13 14
7. Research objectives ..................................................................................................14
8. Research methodology .............................................................................................14
9. Data collection methods ....................................................................................14 15
10. Data analysis and Discussion ...........................................................................16 21
11. Findings and Conclusion ...................................................................................21 24
12. Bibliography ...............................................................................................................25
13. Annexure A
14. Annexure B
15. Annexure C

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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1. Introduction
Various authors such as van der Westhuizen (1997); Bilikopf (2001); Bryk &
Schneider (2003); Kane et al. (2004); Moolenaar et al. (2010); Christopherson et al.
(2011); and Bieler (2012) have addressed the importance of sound interpersonal
relationships, highlighting reasons such as establishing excellence in educational
leadership, building strong education communities,

and enhancing teacher

commitment, providing access to information knowledge and expertise. Interpersonal


relationships, furthermore leads to trust, essential for school reform and school
improvement. Many studies conducted, cover the spectrum of relationships between
educators and their students. The focus of this study will however be on the
relationship between the educators themselves and between educators and
education management. Themes regarding sound interpersonal relations, that were
highlighted in the literature that was reviewed are: the importance of establishing
sound

interpersonal

relationships;

factors

that

affect

sound

interpersonal

relationships; benefits of sound interpersonal relations; effects of unsound


interpersonal

relationships;

requirements

for

the

establishment

of

sound

interpersonal relationships; challenges that may be faced in attempting to establish


sound interpersonal relationships; and strategies and guidelines that can be
employed to establish or improve sound interpersonal relationships. The available
literature revealed answers to these themes and the framework of the literature
review will consist of these main themes being addressed. The reviewed literature
did however not reveal many answers to these themes with regards to higher
education. The overwhelming data found in the literature is limited to primary,
secondary and even special education. Due to this gap or limitation, the need for
acquiring data with regards to the establishment of interpersonal relationships
between lecturers in a higher education context, arose.
1. Rationale
As a lecturer at a private university, I have come to realise the importance of, not only
building sound interpersonal relationships with my students, but also with colleagues.
A private university has to juggle sales and marketing with good academics, giving it
a corporate feel within an academic environment. Relationships with colleagues are
extremely important in this fast paced and stressed environment of achieving
academic outcomes in order to satisfy the needs of high end customers. The support
of fellow lecturers on personal and professional levels is crucial for survival in this

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fast paced environment. Communication, collaboration, teamwork and motivation are


needs that I have in order to function as a lecturer and to produce good academic
results. In the literature reviewed, I could not find the experiences, views and
opinions of lecturers in a private corporate higher education context, nor could I find
suggestions, guidelines, recommendations or strategies that could address their
unique frustrations and dilemmas with regards to team work and the general
condition of relationships between lecturing staff. I think, as gaps in current literature
exists, the exploration of the experiences of lecturers within a Higher Education
setting would provide unique data that will not only identify problems, but also provide
practical solutions to these real life problems and frustrations. Effective teaching and
learning depends greatly on the quality of relationships between all stakeholders. If
relationships are affected by factors unknown, research can expose these problems
and relevant strategies could be put into place addressing these real life problems
within this unique setting, making this research invaluable to other private higher
education organisations worldwide.
2. Problem statement
Interpersonal relationships are the key to achieving all school outcomes. It is the
foundation on which effective schools are built. It is therefore crucial in creating a
sound culture and climate of teaching and learning. If the quality of these
relationships is negatively affected by factors unknown to educators and education
managers, the culture and climate of the school is adversely affected and it
eventually leads to the learning outcomes not being achieved. Therefore, must the
importance of interpersonal relationships, its benefits, the requirements for achieving
sound interpersonal relationships, the challenges and barriers, and the factors that
adversely affect these inter personal relationships be published to inform, educate
and empower all stakeholders and to emphasise the essential role that interpersonal
relationships play in school effectiveness and outcomes.
Thus the problem statement of the research focuses on the following questions:
1. What is meant by establishing sound interpersonal relationships?
2. What are the experiences of lecturers regarding interpersonal relationships at
Pearson private university, Pretoria campus?
3. Purpose statement
In order to find answers to these problem questions stated above, the aims of this
research are twofold, namely to establish what meaning literature has assigned to

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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establishing sound inter-personal relationships within schools in general, and then to


establish what the experiences, opinions, views and recommendations of lecturers in
a Higher education context at a private university with a corporate environment, are. I
will attempt to shed light on the experiences of lecturers in a higher education context
under similar themes as in the literature that I reviewed.
4. Literature review
a. The importance of establishing interpersonal relationships
between teaching staff
Statistics indicate that within five years new teachers leave the teaching profession in
the United States. Considering this grim statistic, it is suggested that experienced
teachers and school leaders should consider adding support new teachers to their
resolutions for the coming year (Bieler, 2012: 46). Building sound inter personal
relationships is key to keeping teachers in the profession. Interpersonal relationships
refer to "collegial working relationships, which are established through continuous
interaction between educators. It also refers to the relationship between parents and
educators, as well as learners and educators (van Deventer & Kruger, 2013: 200).
There has been an increased focus on the importance of interpersonal relationships
among educators in education over the last decade (Moolenaar et al. 2010: 4). There
are several reasons listed by van der Westhuizen (1997); Bilikopf (2001); Bryk &
Schneider (2003); Kane et al. (2004); Moolenaar et al. (2010); Christopherson et al.
(2011); and Bieler (2012) These reasons are discussed below.
In order to achieve excellence in education leadership, the following basic
management responsibilities must be adhered to, namely: effective task execution
and the creation, as well as the maintenance of sound staff relationships - in other
words, the establishment of harmonious interpersonal relationships (van Deventer
& Kruger, 2013: 189). The quality of interpersonal relationships, in general,
contributes significantly to worker productivity. Interpersonal relations at work,
furthermore, serve a critical role in the development and maintenance of trust and
positive feelings in an organization (Bilikopf, 2001). Although Bilikopfs study related
to agricultural farm workers, the principle and the importance of interpersonal
relationships apply to workers in any sector of the economy.

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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Moolenaar, Daly and Sleegers (2010: 4), who limited their study to relationships
among teachers in the education sector, list several reasons for the importance of
interpersonal relationships between teachers. These reasons are: 1) It builds strong
school communities; 2) It enhances teacher commitment; 3) It gives teachers a
sense of belonging and efficacy; 4) and it plays a crucial role in policy
implementation, instructional change, and teachers professional development in
support of increased student achievement; 5) It provides access to information,
knowledge and expertise; and 6) It enables and positively influences teacher
professional development as well as school improvement. Moolenaar et al. (2010:4)
furthermore state that interpersonal relationships among teachers provide access to
information, knowledge and expertise, facilitate joint problem solving and shape an
environment of trust.
Relationships in general are built on trust, and trust is required for the establishment
of sound interpersonal relationships. Trust in schools is a core resource for school
reform, meaningful school improvement and the success of a school. Social trust
among all stakeholders improves the routine work at a school (Bryk & Schneider,
2003: 40). Relational trust plays a key role in the building of effective education
communities. In fact, relational trust is the connective tissue that binds individuals
together to advance the education and welfare of students" (Bryk & Schneider, 2003:
45); it is the foundation on which any school daily functions (Christopherson et al.
2011: 641). Relational trust exists when each party (teacher) is aware of his role and
duties. Effective school communities require agreement in each role relationship in
terms of the understandings held about these personal obligations and expectations
of others (Bryk & Schneider, 2003: 41). Bryk and Schneiders longitudinal study of
400 elementary schools in Chicago (USA) focused exclusively on relationships
between teachers. Later, Moolenaar et al (2010: 14) state that interpersonal
relationships among teachers are closely associated with trust among teachers. It
may shape a context and opportunity where trust may grow, in order to provide a
blueprint for future interactions, to form mutual expectations, and to outline the norms
and values of a (Moolenaar et al. 2010: 14). Recent work indicates that the more
interpersonal relationships maintained by educators, the more teachers perceive their
team as characterized by trust (Moolenaar et al. 2010:14).
Interpersonal relationships, as one of the five attributes assigned to excellent
university science teachers at Massey University in New Zealand, plays a crucial role
in effective tertiary teaching. Tertiary teaching does not take place in a vacuum but

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occurs within a relationship between the teacher and the students (Kane et al, 2004:
295). However, the study conducted by Kane et al. focused only on the relationships
between lecturers and students. The attributes that were identified by the
participants, in this case the lecturers were: subject knowledge, skill, interpersonal
relations, research/teaching nexus, and personality (Kane et al. 2004:292). All the
participants acknowledged and promoted the importance of the role that
interpersonal relationships, between themselves and their students, play in tertiary
teaching (Kane et al. 2004: 295-296). According to Kane et al. (2004: 296) is
teaching at all levels, primarily about building relevant interpersonal relationships
with students. Relationships that involved caring for student needs and opinions
were important to the lecturers who participated in the study.
b. What affects interpersonal relationships
There are several factors that affect sound interpersonal relationships in education.
Literature has revealed the following factors: the character and personality of the
educational leader (Prinsloo, 2010:81 and Halawah, 2005: 335); the ability of a
leader to communicate effectively (Halawah, 2005: 334); workload, interpersonal
conflict at work, and organisational constraints that leads to stress (Lazuras, 2006:
204 and Coetzee & de Villiers, 2010:28); cultural barriers; perceived status barriers;
cultural and ethnic stereotyping; conversational skills; employees not being valued;
employees

being

excluded

from

participative

decision-making;

ineffective

communication styles; employees not being listened to; one-way communication; and
the lack of confidence within employees (Bilikopf, 2001: online).
A principal's personality and character affects school climate in other words, sound
interpersonal relationships - which in turn will affect the principal's effectiveness
(Halawah, 2005: 335). Leadership, specifically effective communication, impacts
positively upon school climate (i.e. sound interpersonal relationships) (Halawah,
2005: 335). Effective schools require effective principals who communicate
effectively. An effective principal is an effective communicator. Principals should
possess knowledge and understanding of effective communication strategies
(Halawah, 2005: 335). Further characteristics effective principals should possess,
listed by are: being able to recognize the unique styles of their teachers; to help
achieve staff performance goals; and to encourage and acknowledge good work by
teachers (Halawah, 2005: 336).

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Stress impacts the quality of interpersonal relationships in schools. Stress is defined


as "an unpleasant emotional state, resulting from prolonged, increasing, or even new
pressures, which are perceived as significantly greater than the individuals coping
resources" (Lazuras, 2006: 204). Rollinson (2005: 270) defines workplace stress as
"the conditions arising from the interaction of people and their jobs, which are
characterised by changes within people that force them to deviate from their normal
functioning". In his comparative study between general and special educators in
Greece, Lazuras argues that in review studies; workload, interpersonal conflict at
work and organisational constraints have been identified as prominent predictors of
teacher stress (Lazuras, 2006: 204). Nowadays, there is greater uncertainty and
increased job insecurity, which leads to stress related problems that may influence
employee well-being (Coetzee & de Villiers, 2010: 28).
Employee stress in general has an impact on performance in terms of productivity
and the delivery of services. Teaching in particular is a high stress profession
(McShane & Von Glinow, in Lazuras, 2006: 204). Higher levels of stress among
educators have adverse consequences, such as: increased amounts of turnover,
higher job dissatisfaction, poor performance and staff health problems (Lazuras,
2006: 204). Stress is caused by people interaction, and the stress in turn affects
relationships (Coetzee & de Villiers, 2010: 29). Stress leads to feelings of anger,
anxiety and depression, which in turn seriously affect relationships between
employees. It is thus a cyclical process; where stress affects relationships, which
causes even more stress, which in turn reinforce unsound relationships (Coetzee &
de Villiers, 2010: 30).
In order to determine the factors that affect interpersonal relationships, interpersonal
relationships must be studied. Moolenaar et al. (2010: 2) state that Social network
theory has the potential for the study of interpersonal relationships in education.
Social network theory acts as a lens to understand how patterns of interpersonal
relationships among educators can support or constrain efforts at school
improvement (Moolenaar et al. 2010: 4). Social networks explain how various teacher
and school outcomes are impacted by interpersonal relationships between teachers
(Moolenaar et al. 2010: 4).
Social network theory builds on the notion that "social resources such as information,
knowledge, and expertise are exchanged through informal networks of relationships
between actors in a system; as such, these networks can facilitate or inhibit access

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to social capital" (Lin, in Moolenaar et al. 2010:4-5). Central to the idea of social
structure is social embededness, which refers to the hierarchical, or nested, nature
of a social structure. In a social network, individuals are embedded within binary
relationships, which are in turn then embedded in larger sub-groups of three, four, or
more actors that eventually shape a social network (Moolenaar et al. 2010:6).
School principals transformational leadership behaviour may shape social networks
in schools (Moolenaar et al. 2010: 13). Transformational leaders share the schools
vision of the future, motivating teachers. They furthermore pay attention to staff
needs with regards to professional development and intellectual growth. School
principals, who are transformative leaders, occupy central positions in social
networks of their schools. They are able to distribute information quicker, than less
well connected principals. Being close to the teachers, serve as a strategic
advantage for principals; it enables them to optimise the skills and knowledge of the
teachers in the social network (Moolenaar et al. 2010:13).
The importance of existing social networks in schools does not go unnoticed.
Networks of educators, that will foster systemic improvement in the quality of
instruction, as well as the achievement of students, are increasingly recognised by
educational researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers (Moolenaar et al. 2010:13).
The pattern and content of social relationships between teachers affect: their
professional development; collective efficacy; shared decision-making, the schools
capacity to change; innovative climate; and student achievement (Moolenaar et al.
2010:13-14). Thus interpersonal relationships are affected by the existing social
networks within schools.
c. Benefits and effects of sound interpersonal relationships
Sound interpersonal relationships between staff have many positive outcomes.
These possible positive outcomes, should then serve as a strong incentive to
establish sound interpersonal relationships within schools. In brief, literature indicates
the following benefits, which will later be discussed in more detail: job satisfaction,
successful task completion, safe and secure learning environment, nurturing school
climate, team play that promotes student achievement, collective decision-making,
and the ability to overcome vulnerability and uncertainty.
Prinsloo (2010: 84) states that sound interpersonal relations lead to job satisfaction
and successful task completion. Halawah (2005: 334) argues that sound

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interpersonal relationships, a safe and secure learning environment and a positive


nurturing school climate create. Halawah (2005: 334) furthermore mentions team
play as a positive consequence of sound interpersonal relationships. Team play has
a positive link with positive student achievement. Team play creates a positive school
climate which eventually improves student achievement.
Literature shows a strong link between sound interpersonal relationships and trust.
Sound interpersonal relationships require trust. Relational trust binds educators
together to reach and attain school outcomes (Bryk & Schneider, 2003: 45).
Relational trust leads to collective decision-making, which is critical for school reform,
as well as the fostering of social exchanges between teachers (Bryk & Schneider,
2003: 43). Christopherson et al. (2011: 639-640) later quotes Bryk & Schneiders
sentiment that Collective decision-making with broad teacher buy-in occurs more
readily in schools with strong relational trust. Relational trust furthermore contributes
toward a positive climate between colleagues (Christopherson et al. 2011: 641).
Christopherson et al. (2011: 639) who analysed survey data of 234 teachers from 11
Norwegian schools, furthermore state that teacher-teacher trust has a moderately
high impact on teachers' peer collaboration.
Lortie (in Christopherson et al. 2011: 640) states that uncertainty and vulnerability of
the teacher. Christopherson et al. (2011: 641) however offers a solution to this
dilemma. They argue that good relationships with colleagues, these realities of
uncertainty and vulnerability, can counter and minimise. Reciprocal trust and good
relationships, oils the engine when extra pressures, with regards to pupil
performance, arise (Christopherson et al. 2011: 641). Relational trust among school
professionals provides a good basis for the positive development of attitudes and
peer collaboration (Christopherson et al. 2011: 641). Trust, peer collaboration and
positive attitudes can all contribute towards school improvement (Christopherson et
al. 2011: 647).
d. The effects of unsound interpersonal relationships
Sound interpersonal relationships lead to positive effects or benefits. Similarly,
unsound interpersonal relationships have negative consequences. Halawah (2005:
335) state that unsound interpersonal relationships lead to: principal ineffectiveness,
poor teacher performance and poor student achievement, which create a negative
school climate. In addition, van Deventer & Kruger (2013: 189) mention poor task

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performance and execution as an effect of unsound interpersonal relationships.


According to Coetzee & de Villiers (2010: 29) is stress, due to poor or unsupportive
relationships with colleagues, another effect of unsound interpersonal relationships.
However it must be noted that in their study amongst employees in a South African
financial institution, relationships actually scored the lowest as a source of job stress.
In education, however, should a study be done, it would be interesting to analyse
data with regards to the experiences of teachers.
e. Requirements for establishing sound interpersonal relationships
In order to establish sound interpersonal relationships, certain requirements have to
be met. In the first place, establishing sound interpersonal relationships requires
group interaction (Prinsloo, 2010: 84). Group interaction leads to sound interpersonal
relationships as well as effective task execution, which is the main focus of a school
(Prinsloo, 2010: 85). Task execution can be defined as the "attainment of
predetermined aims" (van Deventer & Kruger, 2013: 189). Group interaction
establishes sound interpersonal relationships, which in turn is required for successful
task execution. Group interaction is thus the key to successful task completion.
Sound interpersonal relationships are the link between group interaction and
successful task execution. If group interaction is limited, it would limit sound
interpersonal relationships, which entails that successful task execution would be
limited. Leaders must therefore establish sound interpersonal relationships if they
aim for effective task execution (Prinsloo, 2010: 85).
The second requirement that literature reveals is the drive and the sense of
responsibility an educational leader must possess to make it work (Prinsloo, 2010:
85). A principals personality and character influence the quality and level of
interpersonal relationships at schools. According to van der Westhuizen (in Prinsloo.
2010: 81) plays the character and personality of the principal and other education
leaders, a very important role in teaching, since it is they that influence the
relationships that are important for the staffs job satisfaction and the happiness of
the school in general.
The third requirement mentioned in literature is an education leaders ability to
effectively communicate. Effective schools require effective principals and effective
principals are effective communicators. The single most important factor for
successful school improvement initiatives is the creation of a collaborative
environment and open communication (Halawah, 2005: 335). Good communicators

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are good listeners. Listening skills is rated as the number one problem in human
relationships. Therefore, education leaders who seek to improve on their
communication skills must focus on improving their listening skills (Halawah, 2005:
335). Halawah (2005: 335) indicate that there is a limitation in available research:
little is known about how principal-teachers good communication can positively
affect school climate.
The fourth requirement according to the literature reviewed, is satisfaction among all
role players. Effective schools require a high level of satisfaction among all role
players of the school. Satisfaction here involves allowing staff to participate in the
decision making process (Halawah, 2005: 337).
The fifth requirement prescribe characteristics that principals should aspire to,
characteristics which effective principles possess: firstly, recognizing the unique
styles of their teachers; secondly, assisting staff in their performance goals; and
thirdly, encouraging and acknowledging good work by teachers. The role of the
principal should be that of staff development, as well as the creation of a climate of
integrity, inquiry, and continuous improvement (Halawah, 2005: 336).
The sixth requirement is highlighted by van Deventer & Kruger (2013: 189), namely
that in order to create and maintain sound staff relations, leaders must be aware of
the group dynamics. Awareness of group dynamics in other words the reason why
people belong to groups - will enable them to understand the way in which a group
functions. People join groups to satisfy their needs.
Relational trust referred to above, is a concept explored by Bryk and Schneider
(2003: 45) and is essential for building effective education communities. It is
grounded in social respect (Bryk & Schneider, 2003: 41) another requirement for
establishing sound interpersonal relationships. Genuinely listening to what a person
says and taking his or her views into account in subsequent actions, characterises
these respectful exchanges. If respect lacks, then social exchanges will stop. People
in general dislike demeaning situations. Only if they have no choice, will they resolve
to conflict.
Bryk and Schneider (2003: 45) also mention structural conditions that facilitate the
creation of relational trust within an education community. Small school size, a stable
school community and voluntary associations are necessary to foster trust between
those in an education community.

10

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Lastly, meaningful conversations potentially foster sound interpersonal relationships


for all stakeholders. Meaningful conversations between teachers are proposed by
Kohler Evans, Webster - Smith and Albritton (2013) as a requirement for school
improvement as conclusion of a study they conducted among primary school
teachers in the U.S. Meaningful conversations are "conversations that afford the
interchange of thoughts and ideas. It promotes dialogue and communication, even
heart to heart discussions. Discourse should be meaningful, significant, purposeful,
and valuable and filled with intention" (Kohler-Evans et al, 2013:19).
There are certain qualities that education leaders and teachers must possess if they
seek to build sound interpersonal relationships. Van Deventer and Kruger (2013:
198) list the following characteristics: 1) friendliness and courtesy; 2) respect and
warmth (entails acknowledgement and appreciation of the other person as a unique
being. It includes respect for oneself, since cannot have respect for others unless
one has respect for oneself); 3) honesty and sincerity (it lays the foundation for sound
interpersonal relationships. Treating others with tact will lead to being trusted, which
paves the way for good relationships); 4) genuineness and spontaneity (should not
try to be somebody he or she is not; instead intend to reveal his or her true self.
Honesty, genuineness and spontaneity creates an open climate in which all may feel
confident enough to communicate with the educational leader); 5) consistency (all
rules apply equally to all staff); and lastly 6) concreteness (as opposed to vagueness
and generalisation. Experiences and feelings should be communicated clearly, since
it promotes understanding between people) (van Deventer and Kruger, 2013: 198199).
f.

Challenges for establishing sound interpersonal relationships

There are certain challenges that exist that may hinder the establishment of sound
interpersonal relations. It is not an easy task to establish sound interpersonal
relationships. It's a balancing act for an education leader, who has to balance the
establishment of sound management culture in other words sound interpersonal
relationships - with the maintenance of certain managerial functions to ensure school
efficiency and effectiveness. These two forces are constantly pulling against each
other creating tension (Prinsloo, 2010: 85).
External accountability placed on principals by school boards to attain certain goals,
tinkle down to teachers, influencing interpersonal relationships between school

11

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management and teachers (Christopherson, 2011: 639). According to Bryk &


Schneider (in Christopherson et al, 2011: 639) will the quality of social relationships
within schools determine how schools will respond when 'external accountability
knocks on the door' (Elmore, in Christopherson et al, 2011: 639).
Teacher insularity poses yet another challenge to potential positive synergies that
can exist between teachers (Christopherson et al. 2011: 639). Teachers often carry
out their everyday work in small autonomous egg cartons (Christopherson et al.
2011: 646). Despite this fact, teachers are still expected to collaborate on various
issues and work in a team (Christopherson et al. 2011: 639).
Time constraints are barriers in the way of creating meaningful conversations
between primary school teachers in the U.S. Nowadays participants (teachers) are
overscheduled and they feel that they dont have time to listen, only do (KohlerEvans et al. 2013: 21).
g. Strategies and guidelines to improve interpersonal relationships
After problems and barriers with regards to the establishing of sound interpersonal
relationships have been identified, effective strategies and guidelines should be
sought to address these issues. One route through which educational leaders and
policy-makers may increase the potential of teachers interpersonal relationships is
by stimulating the development of densely connected teacher networks, especially
with regard to work related interaction. For instance, social network data may be
used to identify blind spots in the pattern of interpersonal relationships in a school.
Moreover, this data may support efforts in connecting educators in order to stimulate
and facilitate the mutual development, exchange, and use of new knowledge and
practices. (Moolenaar et al. 2010:15-16).
Another suggestion laid down by Halawah (2005: 335) is that an effective
communication strategy should be employed by the principal to communicate the
rules and their enforcement to staff. It is essential that the principal should know and
understand effective communication strategies. In fact, according to Halawah (2005:
335) has collaboration and open communication the ability to establish sound
interpersonal relationships, which in turn will lead to school improvement (Halawah,
2005: 335). The role of the principal includes staff development and the creation of a
"climate of integrity, inquiry, and continuous improvement" (Halawah, 2005: 336).

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Van Deventer & Kruger (2013: 199) list guidelines to be applied by an education
leader in order establish sound interpersonal relationships in schools, namely: 1)
taking an interest in the staff themselves; 2) taking staff feelings, opinions and
insights into account; 3) believing in the staff's ability to make a contribution; 4) taking
the needs of staff into account, especially younger staff who are eager to give their
input; 5) creating opportunities for staff to fulfil their own needs, to realise their own
potential; 6) involving staff in the formulation of long and short term goals of the
school; 7) encouraging the exchange of ideas, that heightens creativity; 8)
encouraging openness; 9) motivating staff and improving group morale and solidarity;
and 10) using two way communication.
5. Research Questions
1. What is meant by establishing sound interpersonal relationships? Specifically:
a. Why is establishing interpersonal relationships important?
b. What affects or influences interpersonal relationships between stakeholders?
c. What are the benefits of sound interpersonal relationships?
d. What are the effects or consequences of unsound inter personal relationships?
e. What are the requirements for establishing sound interpersonal relationships?
What qualities should educators possess in order to build sound inter personal
relationships?
f.

What challenges do stakeholders face trying to establish sound interpersonal


relationships?

g. How can sound inter personal relationships be established and improved?


Question 1 will be addressed by the literature review.
2. What do you think are the experiences of lecturers regarding interpersonal
relationships at Pearson private university, Pretoria campus? Specifically:
a. What is the current condition of personal relationships between staff Pearson
private university, Pretoria campus?
b. What is the current condition of personal relationships between staff and the
management team at Pearson private university, Pretoria campus?
c. Do all lecturers work as a team at Pearson private university, Pretoria campus?
Why or why not?
d. What barriers are present that prevent lecturers at Pearson private university,
Pretoria

campus

from

building

and

maintaining

sound

interpersonal

relationships?

13

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e. What personal qualities and attitudes in lecturers at Pearson private university,


Pretoria campus is challenging for building and maintaining sound interpersonal
relationships?
f.

What personal qualities in lecturers at Pearson private university, Pretoria


campus is in your opinion necessary for building and maintaining sound
interpersonal relationships?

g. How can these personal qualities and attitudes be developed, in lecturers at


Pearson private university, Pretoria campus, so that it will lead to improved
interpersonal relationships?
h. What recommendations would you give to the management team to improve
interpersonal relationships between the lecturing staff at Pearson private
university, Pretoria campus and between lecturing staff and the management
team?
Question 2 will be answered by the data analysis of a combined survey and interview
questionnaire (mixed method data gathering) conducted with study participants.
6. Research objectives
The purpose of this research paper is twofold. First it aims to determine what
previous studies have concluded regarding the meaning of establishing sound
interpersonal relationships. Secondly, it aims to establish the views, opinions and
experiences of lecturers at the Pretoria campus of Pearson private university,
regarding team play and interpersonal relationships between lecturers. The first
objective will be attained through a review of literature. The second aim will be
attained by analysing data from an interview questionnaire conducted on campus
with a sample of five lecturers who participated in the research.
7. Research methodology
This is a small scale project. I will therefore make use of the qualitative research
approach.
8. Data collection methods
I employed a mixed method approach, using both quantitative and qualitative data
gathering methods. Section A of the questionnaire is a quantitative survey, where I
used a five point Likert scale. Section B of the Questionnaire is a structured interview
with open ended questions. I complied with all ethical requirements. I obtained ethical
clearance from Pearson University to conduct the research after I completed an

14

Henry J.L. Badenhorst


ethical

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

clearance

application.

was

provided

with

reference

number:

CTI/PTA/20140006/PERS/TUKS. I obtained permission from all the participants by


requesting that they sign a consent form. I gave hard copies of the Questionnaires to
a sample of six lecturers where I work at the Pretoria campus of Pearson private
university, whom I asked to complete the questionnaires within a two day period.
Lecturers at the Pretoria campus of Pearson University are a culturally diverse group,
with many expatriates from other African countries. I attempted to choose a sample
representative of the makeup of the university. See the selection of participants table
below. Five lecturers returned the questionnaires on time for analysis.
Selection of participants

Participant Gender

Age
range

Ethnicity

Qualification
level
Honours
degree

Discipline
Business
Accountancy

31 - 35

African
(Zimbabwean)

31 - 35

Caucasian

Honours
degree

Information
Technology

56 - 60

Caucasian

Masters degree

Business

26 - 30

Asian

Honours
degree

Business

41 - 45

African

Doctorate

Business

Conceptual themes

Themes

Number of
references

5.1 The importance of establishing interpersonal relationships

5.2 What affects interpersonal relationships

5.3 Benefits and effects of sound interpersonal relationships

5.4 The effects of unsound interpersonal relationships

5.5 Requirements for establishing sound interpersonal


relationships

5.6 Challenges for establishing sound interpersonal relationships

5.7 Strategies and guidelines for improving interpersonal


relationships

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Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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9. Data analysis and Discussion: Themes


a. Condition of existing relationships at Pearson
i. Between lecturers
The question posed to the participants was: In your opinion and
experience, briefly describe the current condition of relationships between
lecturers working at Pearson Private University, Pretoria campus.
All five participants answered the question. Four of the five participants
indicated a good and positive relationship in general. Descriptions include:
cordial, polite, supportive and motivational, and we help each other
and keep each other standing. One participant indicated that new
lecturers are being welcomed by existing lecturers, helping them to adjust.
These participants did however qualify these statements by identifying
problems such as discrimination, favouritism and backstabbing. One
participant only had a negative response: There are divisions, particularly
based on race, which then gives rise to departmental division.
ii. Between lecturers and management team
The question posed to the participants was: In your opinion and
experience, briefly describe the current condition of relationships between
lecturers and the management team at Pearson Private University,
Pretoria campus.
Two of the five participants had positive responses, describing the
relationship as cordial and civil. The majority had negative responses,
which include: a lack of communication and favouritism. One participant
expressed his experience as: I think that this relationship is bad.
Communication with the principal is non-existent. It takes an accident to
get anybody to notice that the lecturers are human beings. I do not think
that management cares for the lecturers. They pretend to, but it is fake.
b. Team work
i. Qualitative data (Section B of Questionnaire)
The question posed to the participants was: In your opinion, do you think
lecturers work together as a team striving to reach the common academic

16

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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outcomes of Pearson Private University, Pretoria campus. Say why or


why not.
Three participants had a negative response, and one did not answer the
question. Negative responses indicated excessive gossiping, meddling in
with lecturers lives and even their students, and unreasonable deadlines
forcing lecturers to collaborate out of fear. The remaining participant had
positive responses, which stated: lecturers support each other. Since
lecturers have the same groups of students, they collaborate to reach
common goals, with common challenges. They work together within their
respective departments.
ii. Quantitative data (Section A of Questionnaire)
Section A of the questionnaire was a five point Likert scale Quantitative
survey where the characteristics of Teamwork were used. Under each
characteristic (section) four positive statements related to the meaning of
that particular characteristic were made. Participants had to rate the
statements on a five point scale with 1 being strongly disagree and 5
agree. The data revealed the following:
(See annexure A C for detail)
The mean scores for each of the 10 sections (Each section had 4
statements) were as follow:
Section

Section detail (Characteristic of Team


work)

Mean score
(out of 5)

Enthusiasm and Commitment

3.4

Collaboration and Contribution

3.25

Dependability and reliability

3.45

Communication

3.4

Integrity, respect and support

3.05

Creativity and problem solving

3.45

Active listening skills

3.15

Active participation

3.15

Sharing of knowledge, ideas and experience

3.7

10

Flexible and quickly adaptable

2.8

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Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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On average, the respondents rated their colleagues with regards to team


play characteristics, the highest in the sharing of knowledge, ideas and
experience department; and the lowest in their ability to be flexible and
adaptable. The overall average for all 10 team work characteristics is 3.28
out of 5. The participants felt that their colleagues work together as a
team, in percentage terms 65.6 %. (See annexure A and B)
Question 1-10 in Section A of the Questionnaire had 40 statements and 5
ratings per question. Thus are there a total of 200 for each participant.
The participants had the following individual ratings. (See annexure B
page 3). The rating was 1 for strongly disagree to 5 strongly agree. From
the totals for each participant, one can see who had a positive outlook
and who a negative.
Participant

Total achieved

73

152

142

141

148

Participant A scored much lower than the average score of 131.2 (out of a
possible 200) of all five the participants. It is clear that participant A
experiences no team work in the university, whereas the other
participants all scored very close to the average.

Total marks given for


Q1-10

Individual participant totals


200
150
100
50
0
participant a participant b participant c participant d participant e

Question 11 of Section A of the questionnaire requested the participants


to rate the individual characteristics of team work in order of personal
importance, (1) being most important and (10) the least important.

18

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

No

QUESTION

Participant
A

Participant
B

Participant
C

Participant
D

Participant
E

Total 50

Enthusiasm and
Commitment

10

30

Collaboration

10

34

Dependability
and reliability

10

10

32

Proper
communication

10

38

Respect and
support for
team members

10

29

Problem solving
and creativity

29

Active listening

10

36

Active
participation

10

34

Willing sharing
of knowledge,
ideas and
experiences

10

36

10

Flexibility

10

10

36

Results showed that respect and support of team members were rated on
average the most important by all the participants and that proper
communication were rated the least important characteristic of team work.
c. Barriers and Challenges
i. Barriers
The question posed to the participants was: In your opinion, what barriers
exist at Pearson Private University, Pretoria campus, which prevent
lecturers from building and maintaining sound relationships with each
other? And what can be done to limit or remove these barriers?
Four of the participants answered the question and identified the following
problems: racism, deadline pressures, limited free time, the lack of a
social life on campus, language barriers and clashes of personalities.
Suggestions on improvements offered by the participants include: fewer
classes and more free time, having only one common language of
communication and grouping similar personality types together.

19

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com
ii. Challenging lecturer behaviour and attitudes

The question posed to the participants was: What behaviour and attitudes
displayed by other lecturers do you find challenging? Why?
Two of the five participants did not answer the question. The remaining
participants indicated the following behaviour and attitudes of lecturers
that challenged them: loudness in an open office environment, which is
detrimental for concentration and productivity, disrespect, authoritative
personalities, lack of cooperation when tasks are given to a group, and
lastly an attitude of entitlement.
iii. Required lecturer qualities
The question posed to the participants was: Which qualities in lecturers
do

you

deem

necessary

for

establishing

sound

interpersonal

relationships? Why are they important to you?


Characteristics highlighted by the participants include: respect, flexibility,
honesty, willingness to communicate, openness, a willingness to accept
different personalities and to communicate, and sharing. Respect were
repeated by most of the participants and seemed to be very important.
One participant stated that these characteristics (Openness, willingness to
accept different personalities, and honesty and respect), one is able to
create an environment conducive to sharing, accepting and understanding
which leads to sound relationships.
d. Solutions
i. Incentives & strategies for lecturer development
The question posed to the participants was: What strategies or incentives
can be employed, in your opinion, to help lecturers develop these qualities
that will lead to improved interpersonal relationships?
From the three responses the following strategies were suggested: soft
skills training, creating a social structure and a social life on campus, and
culture adjustment.

20

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com
ii. Recommendations

The question posed to the participants was: What recommendations


would you give to management to improve interpersonal relationships
between staff and between staff and management?
The following recommendations were given by the participants verbatim:
1. Everybody should be treated fairly.
2. Relationship between staff and management should be improved.
(This can be achieved if management care less about their image and
more about their employees and if management would stop
discussing their employees with colleagues in negative and untruthful
ways).
3. More and open communication. Listen to lecturers and act on their
advice.
4. Treat staff of similar level (seniority) the same. Staff members who are
treated unfairly become negative and even grow dislike for their
colleagues who are seen to have privileges.
5. Management should reward (not only monetary) more productive staff
more openly. The lecturers need to know that their efforts are being
noticed and rewarded. A simple show of appreciation and gratitude
could prove extremely motivating.
10. Findings and Conclusion
In the literature reviewed, many authors addressed the importance of sound
interpersonal relationships; for reasons being that it establishes excellence in
educational leadership, it builds strong education communities, it enhances teacher
commitment, it provides access to information, knowledge and expertise, and it
builds trust.
Literature indicate that various factors sound interpersonal relationships in an
education environment affect, such as: character and personality of the educational
leader; the ability of a leader to communicate effectively; workload, interpersonal
conflict at work, and organisational constraints that leads to stress; cultural barriers;
perceived status barriers; cultural and ethnic stereotyping; conversational skills;
employees not being valued; employees being excluded from participative decisionmaking; ineffective communication styles; employees not being listened t o; one-way
communication; and the lack of confidence within employees

21

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

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Sound interpersonal relationships between staff have many positive outcomes, as


indicated by the literature. These possible positive outcomes should serve as a
strong incentive to establish sound interpersonal relationships within schools.
Benefits of sound interpersonal relationships include: staff job satisfaction, successful
task completion, a safe and secure learning environment, a nurturing school climate,
team play that promotes student achievement, collective decision-making, and the
ability

to

overcome

vulnerability

and

uncertainty.

Unsound

interpersonal

relationships, however, lead to: principal ineffectiveness, poor teacher performance


and poor student achievement, which create a negative school climate; as well as
poor task performance and execution.
Literature indicate furthermore that the establishing of sound interpersonal
relationships the following require: group interaction; an educational leader with drive
and a sense of responsibility to make it work; an education leader who effectively
communicates; satisfaction among all role players; relational trust; awareness of the
group dynamics; and meaningful conversations.
Effective strategies and guidelines to counter unsound interpersonal relationships
that were identified are: stimulating the development of densely connected teacher
networks; the employment of an effective communication strategy by the principal to
communicate the rules and their enforcement to staff. There are furthermore
guidelines to be applied by an education leader in order establish sound
interpersonal relationships in schools, namely: taking an interest in the staff
themselves; taking staff feelings, opinions and insights into account; believing in the
staff's ability to make a contribution; taking the needs of staff into account, especially
younger staff who are eager to give their input; creating opportunities for staff to fulfil
their own needs, to realise their own potential; involving staff in the formulation of
long and short term goals of the school; encouraging the exchange of ideas, that
heightens creativity; encouraging openness; motivating staff and improving group
morale and solidarity; and using two way communication.
The same themes identified in the literature review were used to compile questions
and gather data with regards to interpersonal relationships at a private university in
order to determine the importance of such relationships, the existence of team play,
barriers that prevent relationships and solutions to these challenges. Data analysis of
the study conducted at Pearson University with regards to interpersonal relationships
between lecturers revealed the following:

22

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

The majority of the participants felt that a positive relationship exists between the
lecturers, but in the same breath identified discrimination, favouritism and division as
challenges. The majority participants however felt that relationships between
lecturers and management was characterised by lack of communication, favouritism
and an attitude of uncaring for the personal needs of lecturers.
The qualitative data with regards to team play indicated a negative experience for the
majority of the participants. Negative experiences reported include gossiping,
meddling, and forced and fearful collaboration. The quantitative data based on team
play characteristics indicated that the team play characteristic most evident and the
strongest among their colleagues were the sharing of knowledge, ideas and
experience; whilst on the other hand the least evident and weakest characteristic
appeared to be the ability of their colleagues to be flexible and adaptable. With
regards to team play was the mean score of all the participants 3.28 out of 5. The
participants rated each characteristic, stated positively, ranging from (1) strongly
disagree to (5) strongly agree. A mean score of 3.28 indicate that teamwork is above
average. Furthermore, was respect and support of team members rated the most
important characteristic to possess by a team player, whilst communication was rated
the least important.
Barriers that prevent lecturers from building and maintaining sound interpersonal
relationships were identified by the participants as racism, deadline pressures, lack of
time, language barriers and personality differences. They offered solutions such as
fewer classes, using only one language for official communication purposes, and
grouping personality types together. Participants also identified challenging
behaviour and attitudes in colleagues, such as inconsideration, disrespect, lack of
cooperation and attitudes of entitlement. Participants furthermore identified qualities
in people that would promote the establishment of sound interpersonal relationships.
These qualities include: respect, flexibility, honesty, willingness to communicate,
openness, a willingness to accept different personalities and to communicate, and
sharing. The emphasis was placed on respect as also indicated by the rating given in
the survey. These characteristics are able to create an environment conducive to
sharing, accepting and understanding.
Strategies to help lecturers develop these qualities, that will eventually improve
interpersonal relationships, were identified by the participants as soft skills training,
creating a social structure and a social life on campus, and cultural adjustment

23

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

Lastly, recommendations they would like to offer management, include: To treat


everybody fairly, without favouritism, to improve the relationship between staff and
management, to improve communication, to consider the advice given by lecturers,
and to have reward and acknowledgement structures in place.
Awareness of literature has revealed, together with data relevant to and specific to
Pearson university Pretoria campus, one is able to identify problems in general and
specific to relationships at Pearson. From these solutions offered by literature and
participants, a foundation has been set for the identification and implementation of
relevant strategies. Establishing sound interpersonal relationships in general is of the
utmost importance. Awareness of the challenges and barriers it faces will bring us
closer to finding relevant and practical solutions. Taking the experiences and
opinions of those in the field into consideration can play a huge role in establishing
sound interpersonal relationships that will lead to effective schools with a sound
culture and climate.

24

Henry J.L. Badenhorst

henry_badenhorst@yahoo.com

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