Cross‐cultural differences in conflict management

Lorna Doucet (China Europe International Business School, Pudong, China)
Karen A. Jehn (Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands)
Elizabeth Weldon (Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, Beijing, China)
Xiangming Chen (Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, USA)
Zhongming Wang (Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Publication date: 2 October 2009



The purpose of this paper is to compare conflict management behaviors of American and Chinese managers. Its main aim is to uncover cultural differences in the way Chinese and American managers approach conflict – thereby developing a more thorough understanding of conflict management across cultures.


Inductive analysis is used to uncover conflict management constructs that are unique to each culture. Structured interviews and multidimensional scaling techniques are used.


Results show that the conflict management behaviors suggested by American and Chinese managers are different. For Chinese managers alone, embarrassing the colleague and teaching a moral lesson is an important element. For American managers alone, hostility and vengefulness are important elements. Results suggest that both cultures acknowledge avoidant approaches, but the underlying intentions for Americans alone are associated with a lack of confidence.

Research limitations/implications

Results are based on one conflict scenario and the participants are managers working in mainland China. These factors may limit the generalizability of the results.

Practical implications

The findings of this paper suggest that managers should consider cultural differences in conflict management when diagnosing and intervening in conflict situations in different cultures.


The authors present new concepts for potential inclusion in a comprehensive model of conflict management. The authors illustrate the value of using an inductive approach to improve our understanding of conflict management across cultures.



Doucet, L., Jehn, K., Weldon, E., Chen, X. and Wang, Z. (2009), "Cross‐cultural differences in conflict management", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 355-376.

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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