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Is conflict useful after all? A scenario experiment on the antecedents and consequences of task and relationship conflict in military settings

Maria Ioana Telecan (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Claudia Lenuța Rus (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Petru Lucian Curșeu (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania and Department of Organization, Open Universiteit, Heerlen, The Netherlands)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 29 July 2022

Issue publication date: 6 January 2023

669

Abstract

Purpose

Using a within-subject vignette experiment, this study aims to disentangle the differential effect of task and relationship conflict on team effectiveness and interpersonal outcomes. In addition, the authors aimed to test the moderating role of the conflict inducing person’s gender on task and relationship conflict outcomes.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected using four vignettes administered to 151 participants from an Air Force military organization.

Findings

Relationship conflict was more damaging than task conflict for team effectiveness, the harmonious interpersonal relations and the expected positive affective team climate. Task conflict triggers more positive emotions than relationship conflict and, in consequence, team effectiveness is higher in scenarios with the task rather than relationship conflict. The groups in which conflict is induced by a woman are not expected to perform better than groups in which the conflict is induced by a man. The similarity between participant’s gender and the gender of the person that generated the conflict accentuates rather than attenuates the effectiveness decline associated with relationship conflict. Task conflict triggers cooperative, while relationship conflict triggers assertive conflict management strategies.

Research limitations/implications

This study provided only a snapshot on how task and relationship conflict are perceived to relate to the various team and individual-level outcomes, particularly in military settings.

Originality/value

The findings evidence the differential effect of task and relationship conflict not only on team effectiveness but also on attitudinal and emotional team and individual-level outcomes.

Keywords

Citation

Telecan, M.I., Rus, C.L. and Curșeu, P.L. (2023), "Is conflict useful after all? A scenario experiment on the antecedents and consequences of task and relationship conflict in military settings", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 32-55. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-03-2022-0050

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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