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Star(tup) wars: decoupling task from relationship conflict

Malgorzata W. Kozusznik (Department of Social, Work and Differential Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain and Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology Research Group, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Hillie Aaldering (Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Martin C. Euwema (Work, Organizational and Personnel Psychology Research Group, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 9 April 2020

Issue publication date: 4 June 2020

Abstract

Purpose

A strong relation between task and relationship conflict has toxic impact on teams and poses a high-risk factor in startup organizations. The purpose of this study is to investigate the moderating role of conflict behavior and related coping strategies on the relationship between task and relationship conflict in startup teams.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted surveys among 100 Dutch and German startup members (Study 1) and 75 Belgium startup members (Study 2). In Study 3, 75 startup members completed weekly surveys in 11 consecutive weeks.

Findings

Both Study 1 and 2 show that the positive association between task and relationship conflict is buffered by problem-solving conflict behavior while this relationship is amplified by the use of avoiding strategies in startup teams. Similarly, the results of Study 3 show that individual and team-level problem-focused coping over a period of 11 weeks buffers the association between task and relationship conflict during this period, while individual disengagement coping potentiates it.

Originality/value

This study adds to the literature on conflict management and entrepreneurship by studying conflict behavior as a moderator in the association between task and relationship conflict in startup teams. Moreover, it takes a comprehensive perspective by including coping strategies conceptually related to conflict behaviors at both individual and teamlevel, as moderators in this relationship. The results of this study provide practical recommendations for entrepreneurs on how to prevent conflict escalation via conflict-oriented behaviors and more general coping strategies.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 745947 (“Starflict”).

Citation

Kozusznik, M.W., Aaldering, H. and Euwema, M.C. (2020), "Star(tup) wars: decoupling task from relationship conflict", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 393-415. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-09-2019-0167

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited