Promising Research Opportunities in Emotions and Coping with Conflict

By Humphrey, Ronald H. | Journal of Management and Organization, September 2006 | Go to article overview

Promising Research Opportunities in Emotions and Coping with Conflict


Humphrey, Ronald H., Journal of Management and Organization


This epilogue reviews the highlights of the five articles in this special issue on emotions and coping with conflict. It develops 12 research areas that offer potential for future research breakthroughs. These areas link the five articles to core concepts in emotional intelligence/competencies and Affective Events Theory. Particular attention is given to empathy, the ability to recognize emotions in others, and the ability to express one's own emotions. These three variables are related to moods and job performance, leadership, emotional labor, trust, work-family conflict, and stress. These five articles, together with the 12 promising research areas, suggest practical ways to help employees and organizations cope with conflict in the workplace.

Key words: emotions, conflict, empathy, leadership, emotional labor

A s the five articles in this special issue demonstrate, there are numerous opportunities to make research contributions by linking emotions to conflict and coping. Conflict has always been seen as an emotionally arousing process. Traditional theories of conflict have modeled how conflict can lead to feelings of hostility (Fox & Spector 1999). Conflict has long been recognized as a very stressful process. However, in the last fifteen years or so our understanding of emotions in the workplace has blossomed, and it is time that we incorporate these recent advances into the literature on conflict. When the original models of conflict in the workplace were developed, Salovey and Mayer (1990) had not yet coined the term 'emotional intelligence". Moreover, few management scholars were investigating related concepts such as emotional labor (Ashforth & Humphrey 1993; Brotheridge & Grandey 2002; Rafaeli & Sutton 1987; Locke 1996; Schaubroeck & Jones 2000). And of course Affective Events Theory had not been developed (Ashkanasy & Daus 2002; Weiss & Cropanzanol996; Weiss, Nichols & Daus 1999). Thanks to the research done in the last fifteen years, we now have a much better understanding of the skills, competencies, and traits that underlie emotionally intelligent behavior in the workplace. And thanks to the five articles in this special issue ofJournal of Management e" Organization [volume 12/2 (2006); ISBN 0-97577109-4], we have a good start on applying these recent advances to our models of conflict in the workplace.

In this epilogue I am going to highlight what I think are some of the key contributions of each article in this issue. However, my focus will be on discussing how these articles point the way to future research opportunities. I am going to relate these articles to some of the core concepts in the research on emotions and suggest some new propositions and research opportunities. In particular, I am going to emphasize empathy. When discussing empathy, I will also emphasize two other related concepts: the ability to express one's own emotions and the ability to identify other's emotions. These three abilities are crucial to emotional competence and should also play a large role in coping with conflict. In general, empathic individuals should be better at developing positive interactions with others and in handling conflict when it does break out. Although I will focus on empathy, I will also give considerable attention to emotional labor and moods, particularly when discussing the 2 articles on emotional labor, and the piece on moods by Jordan, Lawrence and Troth.

EMPATHY

In their groundbreaking article, Salovey and Mayer (1990: 194-195) defined empathy as the 'ability to comprehend another's feelings and to re-experience them oneself. They described empathy as central to the concept of emotional intelligence. Empathy has also been portrayed as a bonding process due to the sharing of emotions (Plutchik 1987: 43). Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee (2002: 50) argued that empathy is 'the fundamental competence of social awareness' and 'the sine qua non of all social effectiveness in working life. …

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