The Clash of Different Conflict Management Styles in Multinational Teams

Conflicts are unavoidable in organizational life. While conflict can enhance group functioning, when poorly managed or left unaddressed, it can lead to negative workplace outcomes that are costly, disruptive, and even dangerous to the people served by the organization. Multinational teams, in particular, are prone to experiencing more conflict due to team members having different cultural values, norms, and beliefs that may invoke conflict between them.

Over the last several decades, there have been numerous theoretical advances regarding conflict management and the identification of a wide range of individual and situational predictors of conflict management strategies and outcomes at the individual and team levels. Research shows that national cultures are also likely to have an impact on the emergence of distinct conflict management norms. For instance, in society cultures characterized by high-uncertainty avoidance, collectivism, and tightness, people may tend towards avoidance when it comes to managing conflicts. In societies characterized by vertical individualism, masculinity, and cultural looseness, individuals are more likely to adopt dominating conflict management styles.

Little research, however, has explored the configurations of conflict management styles within a team, and its individual and team-level outcomes. Different configurations (e.g.: team members being equally split between two conflict managements styles vs. every team member adopting a different style from everyone else) may have different implications for relationship conflict, incivility, and citizenship behavior, which could consequently impact team morale and performance. A multicultural perspective of conflict resolution can interpret the conflict in a multicultural context that would help explain that conflict meaningfully in terms of causes, processes, and effects. With the present study we intend to focus on the dynamic nature of how people manage conflict within workgroups, and its downstream implications for team processes and performance.


Research questions:

  1. What are the various possible configurations of conflict resolution styles within workgroups, and how do each impact individual and group level outcomes?
  2. What types of configurations are beneficial versus detrimental to team performance?
  3. What moderators can buffer the negative effect of the more “detrimental” configurations?



Focal variables:

  • Conflict resolution styles scale
  • Round-robin conflict resolution style evaluations