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The relationship between perceived dissimilarity and feedback avoidance behaviour: Testing a multiple mediation model

Meng Song (School of Economics and Management, Beijing University of Technology, Beijing, China)
Kubilay Gok (Department of Business Administration, Winona State University, Winona, Minnesota, USA)
Sherry Moss (Department of Management, Wake Forest University, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)
Nancy Borkowski (Department of Health Services Administration, School of Health Professions, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 11 April 2020

Issue publication date: 29 January 2021




The purpose of this study is to understand the conditions in which subordinates, after making a mistake, are more likely to engage in feedback avoidance behaviour (FAB), a set of behaviours that could ultimately jeopardise patient safety in a health care context.


This study used a sample of 183 independent leader-subordinate dyads in the health care service sector. For this study, a multiple mediator model in which three types of conflict (task conflict, relationship conflict and process conflict) were tested and acted as mediating mechanisms that transmitted the effects of perceived dissimilarity to FAB.


The results supported the mediating role of two of the three forms of conflict and highlighted the consequences of dissimilarity between supervisors and subordinates in the healthcare setting.

Research limitations/implications

One of the noteworthy limitations of this study was that this study used cross-sectional time-lagged data. Future research should use a more rigorous longitudinal approach such as a cross-lagged design (Whitman et al., 2012) to explore the dynamic nature of dyadic relationships over time.

Practical implications

An important implication of our study results suggests that health care leadership development training should provide opportunities to increase awareness of the tendency of leaders to treat subordinates perceived as dissimilar more negatively.


These results contribute to our understanding of the interpersonal processes between subordinates and their supervisors, which could have a significant impact on organisational outcomes in the health care setting.



Meng Song received research Grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71802013) and The Ministry of Education of Humanities and Social Science Project (Grant No. 17YJC630125).


Song, M., Gok, K., Moss, S. and Borkowski, N. (2021), "The relationship between perceived dissimilarity and feedback avoidance behaviour: Testing a multiple mediation model", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 1-19.



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