Evaluating the Management of Interpersonal Conflict in Organizations: A Factor-Analytic Study of Outcome Criteria

By Meyer, John P; Gemmell, Joanne M et al. | Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration, March 1997 | Go to article overview

Evaluating the Management of Interpersonal Conflict in Organizations: A Factor-Analytic Study of Outcome Criteria


Meyer, John P, Gemmell, Joanne M, Irving, P Gregory, Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration


Abstract

This study was conducted to identify dimensions of outcome criteria commonly used in the evaluation of managerial intervention in conflicts among subordinates. Undergraduate students in organizational psychology rated the likelihood that each of 24 outcomes would result from the use of six intervention strategies. A principal components analysis revealed three bipolar factors: system vs. individual goal attainment, subordinate satisfaction vs. efficiency, and smoothing vs. permanence. The various strategies were perceived to be differentially effective in attaining the outcome categories. Implications of the findings for the development of a normative model of conflict management are discussed.

Resume

Cette etude a pour but d'identifier les dimensions composants les criteres utilises pour evaluer les interventions patronales aupres d'employes en situation de conflit. Des etudiants de premier cycle en psychologie organisationnelle ont evalue la probabilite d'occurence de 24 resultats desires, suite a six differentes strategies d'intervention. Une analyse a composantes principales a revele trois facteurs bipolaires: realisation du systeme vs. objectifs personnels; satisfaction en tant qu'employe vs. efficacite; ainsi que resolution du conflit a courtterme vs. une resolution plus durable. Les six strategies ont ete percues par les sujets comme ayant differents niveaux d'efficacite en ce qui concerne la gestion de conflits entre employes. Les implications de ces resultats sont abordes en fonction du developpement d'une strategie normative de gestion de conflit.

The management of conflict is an important part of the role of managers in business organizations (Mintzberg, 1975; Thomas & Schmidt, 1976). Thomas and Schmidt reported that middle-level managers spend in excess of 25% of their time dealing with conflict. It is not surprising, therefore, that behavioral scientists have become increasingly interested in investigating the causes and consequences of organizational conflict and in finding ways to manage this conflict effectively. An important practical objective of this research is the development of a normative (prescriptive) model that can be used by managers in their day-to-day efforts to deal with conflict. Indeed, there has been some significant progress made in this regard (e.g., Rahim, 1992; Sheppard, 1984; Thomas, 1992).

In developing a normative model of conflict management, it is important to strike a balance between comprehensiveness and practicality. That is, it must be recognized that, although managing conflict is a complex process, to be helpful, a model must provide a set of guiding principles that are relatively straightforward and easy to understand and remember. In our view, a good example of how this balance can be achieved is the model of decision making developed by Vroom and his colleagues (Vroom & Jago, 1988; Vroom & Yetton, 1973). Our objective in the present study was to contribute to the development of a similar model within the domain of conflict management in organizations. Specifically, the study was conducted to aid in the development of a taxonomy of the outcomes of conflict management to be used (a) in the selection of intervention strategies, and (b) as criteria in evaluating the effectiveness of interventions. Although conflicts in organizations can take many forms, the focus of this study was on managers' efforts to deal with conflicts between or among their subordinates.

To place the present study in context, we will first provide a brief description of Vroom's model of decision making and describe the parallels between decision making and conflict management in organizations. We will then outline the steps involved in the development of a normative model of conflict management and provide a brief review of conflict theory and research as they pertain to the development of such a model. Finally, with this background, we will explain how our study contributes to the objective of developing a normative model. …

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