A re‐evaluation of conflict theory for the management of multiple, simultaneous conflict episodes

James Speakman (IESEG School of Management, Catholic University of Lille, Lille, France)
Lynette Ryals (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Publication date: 27 April 2010



This conceptual paper aims to draw upon recent complexity and organizational psychology literature to examine conflict episodes, exploring the limitations of the predominant research paradigm that treats conflict episodes as occurring in sequence, as discrete isolated incidents.


The paper addresses a long‐standing issue in conflict management research, which is that the predominant typology of conflict is confusing. The complexity perspective challenges the fundamental paradigm, which has dominated research in the conflict field, in which conflict episodes occur in sequence and in isolation, with managers using one predominant form of conflict resolution behavior.


The findings are two‐fold: first, the behavioral strategies adopted in the management of these conflicts will be highly complex and will be determined by a number of influencing factors; and second, this moves theory beyond the two dimensional duel concern perspective, in that the adaptable manager dealing with these multiple, simultaneous conflicts will also need to consider the possible implications of their chosen strategy along with the changing micro environment in which they operate.


This paper adds value to the field of conflict theory by moving beyond two dimensions and exploring a sequential contingency perspective for conflict management within the organization. It argues that multiple conflict episodes can occur simultaneously, requiring managers to use differing behaviors for successful conflict management.



Speakman, J. and Ryals, L. (2010), "A re‐evaluation of conflict theory for the management of multiple, simultaneous conflict episodes", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 186-201. https://doi.org/10.1108/10444061011037404

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