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Shared perceptions of supervisor conflict management style: A cross-level moderator of relationship conflict and employee outcomes

Kirsten A. Way (School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Nerina L Jimmieson (School of Management, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia)
Prashant Bordia (Research School of Management, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 8 February 2016



This study aims to investigate the extent to which employee outcomes (anxiety/depression, bullying and workers’ compensation claims thoughts) are affected by shared perceptions of supervisor conflict management style (CMS). Further, this study aims to assess cross-level moderating effects of supervisor CMS climate on the positive association between relationship conflict and these outcomes.


Multilevel modeling was conducted using a sample of 401 employees nested in 69 workgroups.


High collaborating, low yielding and low forcing climates (positive supervisor climates) were associated with lower anxiety/depression, bullying and claim thoughts. Unexpectedly, the direction of moderation showed that the positive association between relationship conflict and anxiety/depression and bullying was stronger for positive supervisor CMS climates than for negative supervisor CMS climates (low collaborating, high yielding and high forcing). Nevertheless, these interactions revealed that positive supervisor climates were the most effective at reducing anxiety/depression and bullying when relationship conflict was low. For claim thoughts, positive supervisor CMS climates had the predicted stress-buffering effects.

Research limitations/implications

Employees benefit from supervisors creating positive CMS climates when dealing with conflict as a third party, and intervening when conflict is low, when their intervention is more likely to minimize anxiety/depression and bullying.


By considering the unique perspective of employees’ shared perceptions of supervisor CMS, important implications for the span of influence of supervisor behavior on employee well-being have been indicated.



This study was supported by an Australian Research Council Linkage Project (LP0775049) awarded to the second and third authors in collaboration with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.


Way, K.A., Jimmieson, N.L. and Bordia, P. (2016), "Shared perceptions of supervisor conflict management style: A cross-level moderator of relationship conflict and employee outcomes", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 25-49.



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