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Intragroup conflict dynamics and their linkages with horizontal power disparity configurations, upper management conflicts and coworker support

Michel Tremblay (École des Hautes Études Commerciales de Montréal (HEC), Montréal, Canada)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 8 December 2022

Issue publication date: 10 March 2023




This study aims to examine how changes in power disparity shape in-groups and upper-level management conflict are associated with intragroup relationship and task conflict variations. It also examines how workplace conflicts relate to focal employees’ perceptions of coworker support.


Data were collected from 3,343 respondents for nine years, comprising measurements taken on six occasions in 47 departments and stores of a Canadian retailer. The relationships between, within and across levels were tested using multilevel structural equation modeling.


The results showed that higher levels of power concentration vested by a few members or a single person are associated wih higher levels of intragroup conflict than usual. Furthermore, higher levels of task and relationship conflicts at upper management levels are associated with higher-than-usual task and relationship conflicts between nonhierarchical employees. Additionally, a higher-than-usual intragroup task conflict level was associated with lower-than-usual coworker support, supporting the proposed multilevel dynamic model.

Research limitations/implications

An important limitation of this study is that all variables are self-reported despite using the six-wave repeated measurements, thereby increasing the possibility of inflating some observed relationships. Future research should examine the emergence of a larger spectrum of power dispersion configurations and their role on process conflict.

Practical implications

Retail managers should legitimize why a high-power concentration occurs when the equal distribution of power is not possible and find ways to minimize the trickle-down effects of conflicts at upper levels on their subordinates.


This study examines the effect of variability on power configurations and conflict in upper management ranks on conflict dynamic. The findings show that a high-power concentration elicits increasing conflicts, and that there is no empirical evidence that intragroup conflict is associated with positive outcomes.



Declaration of interest: No potential confllict of interest was reported by the author.

Funding: The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of the article. The work was supported by Social Sciences of Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant number 435-2018-153).

ORCID: Michel Tremblay http: //

The author thanks Miguel Chagnon and Saad-Ellah Berhili for their valuable research assistance.


Tremblay, M. (2023), "Intragroup conflict dynamics and their linkages with horizontal power disparity configurations, upper management conflicts and coworker support", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 339-366.



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