Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Individual and Organizational Factors Promoting Successful Responses to Workplace Conflict

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Individual and Organizational Factors Promoting Successful Responses to Workplace Conflict

Article excerpt

Although conflict at work is a fairly common and often distressing occurrence, it is arguably a vital and necessary element of human interaction. Relevant to this special issue on positive psychology, we propose that the necessary short-term intensity of interpersonal conflict can bring about positive longer term consequences, including insight, connection, and strength. We synthesize research from organisational, family, social, and personality psychology identifying factors that support successful conflict responses. Individual factors of cognitive flexibility, an appropriate balance of self- other focus, emotion regulation, and fit of the person to the conflict situation show promise for conflict success and appear to be trainable. Organisational interventions, including individual training, work group conflict training, and mediation, also demonstrate efficacy in building conflict skills. We conclude by proposing implications for conflict resolution interventions and critical directions for future research.

Keywords: conflict resolution, interpersonal conflict, personality, organizational interventions, negotiation


Les conflits au travail sont plutôt courants et sources de stress, mais ils demeurent peut-être un élément vital et nécessaire des interactions humaines. Dans le cadre de cette livraison spéciale sur la psychologie positive, nous proposons que l'intensité à court terme et nécessaire qui caractérise les conflits interpersonnels peut résulter en des conséquences positives à long terme, tels que la lucidité, des rapports et la force. L'article fait la synthèse de recherches sur la psychologie organisationnelle, familiale, sociale et de la personnalité en vue de déterminer les facteurs qui favorisent des réponses favorables aux conflits. Des caractéristiques individuelles, telles que la flexibilité cognitive, l'équilibre entre la focalisation sur soi et sur les autres, la maîtrise des émotions et l'adaptation de la personne à la situation conflictuelle, constituent des éléments prometteurs pour un conflit productif, des facteurs qui semblent s'apprendre. Les interventions organisationnelles, notamment la formation individuelle, la formation en groupes sur les conflits et la médiation, se révèlent aussi efficaces dans l'acquisition de compétences à composer avec les conflits. L'article se termine par des propositions d'implications pour les interventions de résolution de conflits et d'orientations déterminantes pour les recherches futures.

Mots-clés : résolution de conflits, conflit interpersonnel, personnalité, interventions organisationnelles, négociations.

Organisational conflict has been defined in a multitude of ways, but a comprehensive definition is as follows:

a state of social discord characterised by negative affect (e.g., frustration, anger, and anxiety) and the perception of interpersonal dissonance. People at work are in a state of conflict when one or more parties perceive that an ongoing or unresolved dispute poses a threat to any core human state (e.g., one's interests, identity, security, or sense of inclusion). (LeBlanc, Gilin Oore, & Axelrod, 2014,p.6).

Psychological research on organisational conflict often differentiates two subtypes of conflict in work groups: task conflict (disagreements about tasks) versus relationship conflict (interpersonal friction, personality clashes; Jehn, 1995). As might be expected from this definition, research is clear that a high frequency of relationship conflict within a work group is detrimental (de Wit, Greer, & Jehn, 2012). Work groups with high relationship conflict show greater turnover, absenteeism, and work dissatisfaction; have lower team productivity (Ayoko, Callan, & Härtel, 2003; Chiaburu & Harrison, 2008; van Vianen & De Dreu, 2001); and show increased reactivity to job stressors (Gilin Oore et al., 2010) compared with work teams that have lower relationship conflict.

Poorly handled organisational conflict is commonplace, and is costly in both economic and human terms. …

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