Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

An Investigation of the Relationships between Three Types of Conflict and Perceived Group Performance in Culturally Diverse Work Groups

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

An Investigation of the Relationships between Three Types of Conflict and Perceived Group Performance in Culturally Diverse Work Groups

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Cultural diversity of the workforce is now a reality. Culturally diverse work groups and teams have become essential work units in all types of organizations around the globe. Cultural diversity in work groups in the United States reflects a cultural mosaic of work environments in organizations around the world. Interaction of multiple cultures brings the need for intercultural understanding (Marga, 2010) to better manage intergroup interactions, to prevent conflicts, and to help culturally diverse groups and teams reach their performance potential.

Literature reveals mixed results on the benefits and harm of conflict to groups and organizations. Early organizational conflict theorists suggested that conflict is detrimental to organizational functioning and focused much of their attention on the causes and resolution of conflict. More recently, researchers have theorized that conflict is beneficial under some circumstances (Tjosvold, 1991).

Work group members experience conflicts that can be categorized into relationship, task, and process types of conflict (Amason & Sapienza, 1997; Jehn, 1992, 1997; Pelled, 1996; Pinkley, 1990). Having performed a longitudinal study, Jehn and Mannix (2001) were able to create an ideal conflict profile for members of work groups. These members had "similar pre-established value systems, high levels of trust and respect, and open discussion norms around conflict during the middle stages of their interaction" (p. 248).

While relationship conflict is an awareness of interpersonal incompatibilities that includes emotions, task conflict is an awareness of differences in opinions regarding a group task (Jehn & Mannix, 2001). Process conflict (Jehn, 1997; Jehn et al., 1999) is an awareness of differences regarding the way for a task to be accomplished.

Researchers found that moderate levels of task conflict have been beneficial to group performance on selected types of tasks (Jehn, 1995; Shah & Jehn, 1993). Differences of opinion about the work tasks improve decision quality due to the synthesis of group opinions (Mason & Mitroff, 1981; Schweiger & Sandberg, 1989; Schwenk, 1990). Low levels of relationship conflict help group members develop relationships necessary for effective performance. Process conflict has not been investigated extensively (Jehn & Mannix, 2001). Jehn (1992) found that the process conflict was negatively associated with group morale and positively associated with decreased productivity.

A substantial amount of research findings on diversity effects conducted prior to the 1980s indicate a negative relationship between ethnic diversity and performance outcomes based on faulty work processes. This relationship is explained by process-oriented difficulties in communication, coordination, and collaboration that occur when a groups' diversity is constantly increasing (Tajfel, 1981; Turner, 1982, 1985).

Culturally diverse teams and groups differ in the degree of diversity ranging from culturally homogenous to culturally heterogeneous. Jehn et al. (1997) argue that studies on culturally diverse teams demonstrate the following problems experienced by moderately heterogeneous groups: relational conflict, significant communication problems, and low team identity that have a dysfunctional impact on team effectiveness. Further, heterogeneous teams report reduced satisfaction with the team work that also results in negative team performance (Ravlin, Thomas, & Ilsev, 2000; Earley & Mosakoski, 2000; Jehn, Northcraft, & Neale, 1999). It was found that the composition of the team determines the success of the group and may prevent the group from reaching its performance potential (Earley & Mosakoski, 2000; Earley & Gibson, 2002; Ravlin et al. 2000; Jehnet al.1999).

Research on the antecedents of group performance in organizations posits that success depends on the ability of the work group to manage rather than avoid disagreements (Tjosvold, 1991; Gruenfeld, Mannix, Williams, & Neale, 1996). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.