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Forty years of conflict: the effects of gender and generation on conflict-management strategies

M. Afzalur Rahim (Department of Management, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)
Jeffrey P. Katz (Department of Management, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 20 December 2019

Issue publication date: 21 January 2020

Abstract

Purpose

Previous studies examining the relationship between gender and conflict-management strategies have generally reported weak or inconsistent results. This paper aims to study extends past research by examining the main and interactive effects of gender on conflict-management strategies over time. The authors propose that conflict-management strategies commonly employed in the workplace are impacted by worker gender as predicted by face negotiation theory and vary over time based on the “generation” of the worker.

Design/methodology/approach

To test the study hypotheses, a field study was conducted to assess main and interactive effects of gender and generation on the five strategies for conflict management: Integrating, obliging, dominating, avoiding and compromising. Questionnaire data were collected over four decades (1980s-2010s) from employed students (N = 6,613). Data analysis was performed using a multivariate analysis of covariance.

Findings

The results suggest female employees consistently use more noncompeting strategies (integrating, obliging, avoiding and compromising) than male employees and male employees consistently use more competing strategy (dominating) than female employees. All the main and interaction effects were significant.

Research limitations/implications

While this study involved primarily students in the USA studying management at two major public universities, there may be implications for a more global population of workers. However, the results support the notion advanced by face negotiation theory that men will generally seek to save face while women will generally avoid conflict in consideration of others.

Practical implications

This study demonstrates that workers employ different conflict-management strategies over time and the use of certain strategies varies by gender. An implication of this study is the need to regularly reassess selection, training and evaluation processes for managers. In addition, supervisors should encourage employees to enhance the effective use of cooperative (integrating, obliging and compromising) strategies and focus on specific situations when uncooperative strategies (dominating and avoiding) may be needed.

Originality/value

By using face negotiation theory as the organizing framework to examine changes in conflict-management strategies over time, this study contributes in a substantial way to the understanding of how gender and generation interact to influence the selection and use of conflict-management strategies in the workplace.

Keywords

Citation

Rahim, M.A. and Katz, J.P. (2020), "Forty years of conflict: the effects of gender and generation on conflict-management strategies", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-03-2019-0045

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited