The Influence of Conflict Management Culture on Job Satisfaction

Article excerpt

In the workplace, conflict and the style of conflict management implemented, substantially influence individual, group, and organizational effectiveness (De Dreu & Van Vianen, 2001). At the individual level, one key consistency across various theories has been the distinction of whether or not conflict is managed in an agreeable and cooperative or disagreeable and competitive manner (Rahim, 1983). At the small group level, researchers have also highlighted this distinction between cooperative versus competitive styles of conflict management (De Dreu & Van Vianen, 2001).

In previous studies about the effect of different conflict management styles on work effectiveness at the group level, researchers have suggested that a dominant conflict management culture is unlikely to relate positively to team functioning and team effectiveness (Pruitt & Camevale, 1993). Findings in research on workplaces characterized by an avoidant management conflict culture have been mixed. On the one hand, because group members do not discuss differences of opinion for fear of disrupting group harmony they also avoid discussions needed to generate creative ideas and proactively develop solutions to critical problems (Pruitt & Camevale, 1993). On the other hand, De Dreu and Van Vianen (2001) found that when there is an avoidant conflict management culture, this increases the levels of both team functioning and team effectiveness. In contrast to both the dominant and avoidant conflict management cultures, a collaborative conflict management culture is consistently associated with positive workplace performance and group level outcomes (Pruitt & Camevale, 1993).

Previous researchers have, unfortunately, largely ignored the impact of the conflict management culture in the workplace on individual level outcomes such as job satisfaction. Job satisfaction is one of the most important and significant factors in determining organizational behavior (Brown & Peterson, 1993). Greater job satisfaction has been identified as being associated with a more positive attitude toward the job and with positive workplace outcomes such as increased organizational commitment and decreased staff turnover rate (Brown & Peterson, 1993; Wright & Bonett, 2007).

Therefore, in the current study I investigated the relationships between job satisfaction and dominant, collaborative, and avoidant cultures, as the three types of conflict management culture using survey data collected from bank employees. In an effort to examine more distinctly the relationships among these variables, I conceptualized the variables from a slightly different perspective from that taken in previous studies. In this study I focused on conflict management at the group level and I further defined three distinct conflict management cultures at the organizational level of analysis in order to investigate the associated effects.

A dominant conflict management culture is characterized by conflict management norms of expressions of active confrontation. Underlying this conflict culture is the assumption that individuals have agency to deal openly with conflict and, therefore, open disagreement and competitive behavior are appropriate within this environment. In contrast, a collaborative conflict management culture is characterized by conflict management norms of cooperation and open discussion of the issues surrounding conflicts. Underlying this conflict culture is again the assumption that individuals have agency to deal openly with conflict but, unlike in the dominant culture, cooperative behavior and actions, which best serve the interests of the group as a whole, are rewarded. Finally, an avoidant conflict management culture is characterized by conflict management norms in which passive withdrawal from conflict is considered appropriate as a way to preserve group harmony. Underlying this conflict culture is the assumption that individuals cannot deal openly with conflict without negatively impacting interpersonal relationships and harmony within the group. …