Negotiated capital: conflict, its resolution, and workplace social capital

Ariel C. Avgar (School of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Publication date: 6 July 2010



The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of conflict and conflict resolution on employee perceptions of unit social capital. The paper aims to test the overarching proposition that social capital is affected by different types of conflict and by organizational methods used to manage them.


The paper's hypotheses were tested using survey data collected as part of a case study conducted in a large Ohio hospital that had adopted a conflict management system. Survey data from 791 hospital employees were used to test hypotheses regarding the relationship between conflict and its management and social capital.


Analysis of the data supports the paper's proposition that different forms of conflict affect perceptions of social capital differently. Relationship and task conflict were significantly and negatively related to employee perceptions of social capital. Conflict regarding patient care issues, on the other hand, was significantly and positively related to employee perceptions of social capital. Results support the hypothesized direct and indirect effects of conflict management on social capital. In addition to directly increasing perceptions of social capital, one of the conflict management options examined (supervisor‐assisted) moderated the relationship between relationship and task conflict and social capital.

Research limitations/implications

The research implies that organizational conflict affects social capital. More importantly, different forms of conflict affect social capital in different ways. Furthermore, the findings imply that organizational management of conflict plays an important role in increasing perceptions of social capital. Shortcomings include the use of cross‐sectional data and the generalizability of findings from one hospital to other settings.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that an organization's approach to conflict and conflict management will affect perceived levels of social capital. In addition, organizations must be nuanced in the way they manage and resolve different types of conflict. Finally, findings suggest that supervisors play an important role in increasing unit social capital by assisting employees in resolving conflict.


The paper provides one of the first empirical examinations of the relationship between conflict, conflict resolution and social capital.



Avgar, A. (2010), "Negotiated capital: conflict, its resolution, and workplace social capital", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 236-259.

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