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Linking workplace loneliness to workplace territoriality: a self-protection perspective

Qi Nie (School of Business, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing, China)
Xiao Chen (School of Business, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, China)
Guangyu Yu (Department of Accounting, China Railway Wuhan Electrification Engineering Group co., Ltd Urban Railway Branch, Wuhan, China)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 19 December 2022

Issue publication date: 10 March 2023




Drawing upon the self-protection theory, the purpose of this study is to examine whether and how workplace loneliness leads to workplace territoriality.


Three-wave data from 243 employee–colleague dyads in China were collected to provide stronger empirical evidence supporting the hypotheses presented in this study. Path analysis and the bootstrapping method were used to test the predictions of this study.


The results of this study showed that employees’ workplace loneliness was positively related to their territorial behavior; employees' self-serving cognitions mediated the relationship between workplace loneliness and territorial behavior; and self-sacrificial leadership negatively moderated the relationship between workplace loneliness and self-serving cognitions and the indirect relationship between employee workplace loneliness and territorial behavior through self-serving cognitions.

Practical implications

The findings of this study suggest that organizations should pay attention to employees’ self-serving cognitions and cultivate self-sacrificial leadership to manage the territorial behavior derived from workplace loneliness.


This study highlights the positive effects of workplace loneliness on self-serving cognitions and subsequent workplace territoriality and shows that self-sacrificial leadership plays a buffering role in this process.



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 72002049), the authors also want to thank YanQing Lin (Guangzhou University) for her contribution to construction of the original conceptual model of the present study.


Nie, Q., Chen, X. and Yu, G. (2023), "Linking workplace loneliness to workplace territoriality: a self-protection perspective", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 34 No. 2, pp. 299-316.



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