NCMR Digest – Fall 2018

Here is a digest of the articles appearing in the August 2018 issue Volume 11(3) for NCMR and forthcoming November 2018 compiled by Colleen Cusack, MBA student at Colorado State.

Clegg, S., & Mikkelsen, E. (2018). Unpacking the Meaning of Conflict in Organizational Conflict Research. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 11(3), 185-203.

This essay investigates how conflict theory has developed and expanded throughout the years. There are a variety of definitions and theories on conflict currently offered. The objective of this essay is to outline and understand the competing theories presented in theoretical research. Further, this essay examines potential consequences associated with the findings.

Through a review of empirical and theoretical literature, three distinct shifts in conflict theory were identified. Historically, conflict was viewed as a negative. It was considered dysfunctional and should be avoided. The first shift expanded the concept of conflict to a more practical and positive view. Conflict was normalized and began to be regarded as constructive and productive. During this time surveys were largely used by scholars to help understand and manage conflict. This functional view deemed conflict as a necessary mechanism to achieve a means to an end.

The second shift put an emphasis on relational conflict. With this, a realistic approach on individual action was studied. Instead of focusing on what should be done, researchers began to examine what actually was done in times of conflict. This descriptive view centered on the idea that behavior can influence the outcome of conflict management, both positively and negatively. Researchers used surveys to develop models and categorized types of conflict management styles to better understand this behavioral impact. Although still used today, some argue this approach to be too naïve to fully grasp the underlying context embedded in conflict. As a result, a third shift occurred.

The third shift expanded on previous research by examining the organizational context in which conflict occurs. Surveys and experiments were used to explore the cultural and social structures that influence conflict. Social norms, values, laws, power and communication can all play a role in shaping the context of the situation. Scholars argued that the context could then shape conflict itself. This performative view takes into account the social groups and structures surrounding conflict.

Each of these shifts offer varying and opposing views of conflict. However, it is hard to find literature that highlights multiple perspectives. Most research reports on a single theoretical stance. This essay asks the question as to why these different theoretical approaches are rarely examined together. The consequence of this is a potentially unchallenged and stagnant stance on conflict. Simply referencing previous works will only reinforce current ideas on the topic. Thus, this essay calls for a focus on empirical data to support future research on the topic and encourages further discussion on the competing viewpoints. This will allow for the continued development and expansion of the understanding of organizational conflict.

Bollen, K., Euwema, M. C., Pei, R., & Zhang, X. (2018). Peacemaking at the Workplace: A Systematic Review. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research. 11(3), 204-224.

Currently, empirical research on conflict intervention from a voluntary, informal third party is very limited. Most of the research surrounding this topic largely focuses on the formal third party intervention from managers, human resources, or professional mediators. This essay analyzes available empirical studies to further understand and examine peacemaking in the workplace. With this investigation there were three main objectives: define peacemaking, find measurements that assess peacemaking, and identify outcomes of peacemaking. Further, this essay proposes to broaden the existing research on third party intervention by highlighting the role of the informal, voluntary peacemaker.

To understand the role of peacemakers, a search for empirical studies was conducted. Based on a set of specific criteria, the search was narrowed down to 12 relevant scholarly articles. Through these articles it was found that there is no single definition of peacemaking. In fact, none of the articles directly used the term peacemaking when referring to the intervention of third party peers during times of conflict. However, several key characteristics and categories were identified during this process.

A peacemaker can be identified as a third party intervener with no formal authority in the situation. This individual acts voluntarily and should offer a neutral stance to the conflict. Further, the peacemaker can act unilaterally, providing support to only one party of the conflict, or bilaterally, providing support to both parties. The peacemaker can provide relational, procedural, emotional, or content help. Relational help focuses efforts on restoring the relationship between the parties in conflict. Procedural help offers support in structuring the discussion and processes in order to properly manage the conflict. Emotional help provides support in the context of listening and allowing an individual to vent. Content help focuses on providing advice or opinions on how to resolve the issue. Peacemakers can therefore offer help in a variety of ways to one or both sides of the parties in conflict.

Although several categories of help were identified, little was found on the instruments used to assess peacemaking. Of the 12 studies analyzed, only four used a validated scale to measure performance. Of those four, none of the measurements provided insight directly related to intervention by peers. As a result, little is known on the overall outcomes of peacemaking. Therefore, the initial questions this essay set out to answer cannot appropriately be answered at this time. There is still a lot to be investigated in this area of study.

This essay demonstrates the lack of empirical research currently available on peacemaking in the workplace. Of the research conducted, most focus on formal third party intervention. However, it can be shown that peacemakers play an important role in conflict resolution. Peacemakers can offer a variety of help to those in conflict. Thus, this essay calls for additional empirical research on peacemaking. Additionally, a validated scale for measuring peacemaking should be developed. Further analysis will allow for deeper insight into the outcomes and contributions of peacemaking in the workplace.

Hurt, K. J., & Welbourne, J. (2018). Conflict and Decision-Making: Attributional and Emotional Influences. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 11(3), 225-251.

Conflict is an anticipated part of business. As a result, conflict needs to be thoroughly explored in order to fully understand its impact on an organization. This essay examines the positive, negative, and neutral impacts of attributional and emotional influences on conflict. These influences are first examined at the individual level and then at the team level in order to understand the extent of their impacts.

First, two distinct types of conflict were identified, cognitive and affective. Cognitive conflict is task focused and generally seen as the positive, productive form of conflict. Affective conflict is relational focused and generally seen at the negative, dysfunctional form of conflict. This categorization provides a high-level generalization on the topic.  However, variations in research results allude to possible further underlying factors. The main variation found is the level of positive or negative effects associated with each type of conflict. This means that the effects of cognitive conflict are not always positive, and the effects of affective conflict are not always negative. To further understand, a review of theories on the topic were analyzed.

One underlying factor, as asserted in this essay, is attribution. Attribution occurs when an individual seeks to understand the reason behind the conflict, both in relation to themselves and others involved. Attribution can lead to three general categories of reasoning. The first is locus which refers to whether the individual perceives the cause of the conflict due to themselves (internal) or due to others (external). The second is controllability which refers to whether the individual perceives the cause of the conflict as controllable or not. The third is stability which refers to whether the individual perceives the cause of the conflict as temporary or permanent. Depending on how each of these components are perceived by the individual can in turn influence the effects of the conflict itself. Further, each of these perceptions were tied to distinct emotions.

In general, negative outcomes of conflict elicit negative emotions. Internal locus of control paired with the feeling of controllability will lead to a feeling of guilt. When the situation is instead viewed as uncontrollable, this will lead to a feeling of shame. External locus of control paired with the feeling of controllability will lead to a feeling of anger. When the situation is instead viewed as uncontrollable, this will lead to a feeling of frustration.

Accordingly, positive outcomes will generally lead to positive emotions. When the outcome is believed to be due to internal reasons, a feeling of pride ensues. Regardless of whether the situation was viewed as controllable or not, pride is associated with this type of outcome. If the outcome is believed to be a result of external reasons that were controllable, a feeling of gratitude will result. If the outcome is associated with external, uncontrollable reasons then a feeling of surprise will result.

Further, stability can work to deepen these emotions. Negative events that are long lasting or permanent can generate emotions of hopelessness due to the anticipation of the event reoccurring. Cognitive conflict is considered to be temporary since it is generally associated with a specific task event. Affective conflict is generally considered to be highly stable, or long lasting, due to the relational aspect of the conflict. Because of this, it can be asserted that stability tends to intensify emotion, particularly in affective conflicts.

Thus far the focus has been on attribution related to the individual. Next, this concept is examined in the context of the team. It is important to recognize that each individual in a group may interpret and process the conflict differently. This is largely based on the individuals own perception of the event. However, it has been shown that individual emotions can be spread to the team as a whole. This can happen through emotional contagion or emotional comparison. Emotional contagion occurs when the subconscious expressions and behaviors of a discontent member began to be repeated by the rest of the team. Emotional comparison occurs when an individual bases their emotional response on the evaluation of their team member’s reactions to the situation. The spread of emotions is most common with negative feelings and from individuals in leadership roles.

Individuals cannot separate emotions from the decision-making process. Because of this, a thorough examination of how emotions influence decisions is necessary. While the conflict type itself can determine a general consensus on the outcome of the situation, emotions and attributions help to further predict the outcome. This understanding can help to properly manage conflict and exploit the possible benefits. This essay gives a critical look at the influences of emotion and attribution on conflict management. It encourages leaders to develop their emotional intelligence in order to better manage conflict. Lastly, this essay leaves the door open for further investigation on the topic by acknowledging the limitations of what’s presented. A further analysis on additional emotions, attributions, and impacts of conflict could continue to expand our understanding on this topic.

The November and forthcoming issue of NCMR will be available online in late October 2018 and will feature the following articles.

Ellemers, N., Harinck, F., Kouzakova, M., & Scheepers, D. (2018). Coping with Conflict: Testosterone and Cortisol Changes in Men Dealing with Disagreement about Values versus Resources. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 11(4),   

Conflict can elevate stress levels for many individuals. In turn, this has been found to activate changes in hormone levels. Long term, these hormonal changes can negatively impact an individual’s mental and physical well-being. Through an empirical study, this essay investigates how different types of conflict relate to different changes in hormones.

In this essay conflict was categorized into two groups, resource conflict and value conflict. Resource conflict refers to conflicts over scare resources such as money, land, and time. Value conflict refers to conflicts over principles such as values, norms, behaviors, and political views.  Research has shown these two types of conflict generally elicit different reactions out of people. Because of these differences, it can be asserted that these types of conflict will each relate to different hormonal changes. Testosterone and cortisol were the two hormones tested. Prior research has found that competition increases testosterone levels. This was found to be particularly true in cases where the individual was confident they could compete. Prior research on cortisol has found that stressful emotional situations increases cortisol levels.

With these distinctions made, two hypotheses were developed. First, it was hypothesized testosterone levels would increase at a higher rate in conflicts over resources as opposed to conflicts over values. Second, it was hypothesized that cortisol levels would increase at a higher rate in conflicts over values as opposed to conflicts over resources. To test these hypotheses, a study was conducted on 39 males. Testosterone and cortisol levels were tested by taking saliva samples from each participant. Samples were taken before and after a simulated conflict. Simulations were staged as either a resource conflict or a value conflict. In the end, the study produced usable results from 35 of the participants. These results were then tested for statistical significance.

The findings from this study supported the first hypothesis. Testosterone levels were proven to increase over time when participants were introduced to a resource conflict. The effects of value conflict on testosterone levels were found to be not significant, further supporting this hypothesis. The effects of value conflict and resource conflict were both found to be statistically not significant in relation to cortisol levels. As a result, the second hypothesis was not supported. It was then speculated that the cause for insignificant findings could have been in part due to the small sample size. As a result, this essay expresses caution in evaluating the results. However, the findings do provide further insight on the mental and physical impacts of conflict. This essay suggests that we would benefit from further research as it would continue to increase our understanding of conflict.

Pierce, J. R., & Thompson, L. (2018). Explaining Differences in Men and Women’s Use of Unethical Tactics in Negotiation. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 11(4).

There are distinct differences in the way men and women negotiate. Research has found that men are generally more likely to use unethical tactics during the negotiation process. This difference has largely been attributed to two factors, agency and communion. Agency refers to ones concern for self and communion refers to ones concern for others. Research has largely focused on either men’s tendency towards their concern for self, or women’s tendency towards their concern for others. Minimal research has been done on both.

This research examines the influence of both agency and communion and how they independently as well as concurrently impact the use of unethical negotiation tactics. To narrow the concepts, competitiveness was used as the measurement for agency, and empathy was used as the measurement for communion.  Therefore, this essay tests the hypothesis that men’s higher level of competitiveness and lower level of empathy contribute to their willingness to use unethical tactics as compared to women. To test this hypothesis three independent studies were conducted.

The first study was conducted on 172 Chilean undergraduate students. 48.8% of the participants were male. The study found that men tend to have more positive attitudes towards using unethical tactics and showed a greater level of competitiveness than women. Surprisingly, men and women showed equal levels of empathy. Although the first two components supported the initial hypothesis, the levels of empathy did not. Two explanations for this are offered. The survey method used could have created a bias in participant’s answers or cultural differences could have played a role in the unexpected levels of empathy. Because of this, the next two surveys were conducted in the United States.

The second study was conducted on 129 American undergraduate students. 63.5% of the participants were male. This study found that 50% of men were willing to lie while only 29% of women were willing to lie. Men showed higher levels of competitiveness and lower levels of empathy compared to women. Further, it was found that competitiveness and empathy each independently influenced an individual’s likelihood to lie. This study supported the hypothesis in full. To further confirm these findings, a third test was completed.

The third study was conducted on 300 American adults. 59.7% of the participants were male. Again, men were found to lie more often than women. 44% of men lied while only 29% of women lied. Similarly, men reported higher levels of competitiveness and lower levels of empathy as compared to women. These findings further support the initial hypothesis.

Through these three studies, it was confirmed that both competitiveness and empathy influence the willingness to use unethical negotiation tactics. This influence was found to be particularly strong for competitiveness since it was supported by all three studies. The reason for the variations in results of each study is still unclear. Sample size, cultural differences, and method could all play a role in the variation. However the findings still advance our knowledge on the relationship between gender, empathy and competitiveness, and ethics.

These findings further explain why men typically are more willing to use unethical negotiation tactics and how it often leads to greater gains in the outcome of the negotiation. However, this approach is often risky and could have negative implications. As mentioned in this essay, unethical tactics such as lying about critical information can lead to costly repercussions for the individual and the organization. Therefore, it is important to expand our understanding of the influences of unethical behavior so it can be managed and mitigated to avoid negative consequences. To avoid this, empathy should be encouraged more than competitiveness in the negotiation process.

Aljawarneh, N. M. S., & Atan, T. (2018). Linking Tolerance to Workplace Incivility, Service Innovation, Knowledge Hiding, and Job Search Behavior: The Mediating Role of Employee Cynicism. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 11(4)

Incivility in the workplace has been shown to negatively impact both the employee and organization as a whole. Organizations that tolerant this kind of behavior often experience negative consequences as a result. Consequences can include decreased productivity and creativity, increased turnover, deterioration of trust and relationships, and revenge. Most research on this topic focuses on the individual level instead of looking at the organization level. However, evidence has been found to support that incivility is rarely found at organizations with strict policies against the matter. Thus, this essay investigates incivility at the organizational level, working to understand the impacts of the organizational climate. This article examines how tolerance to workplace incivility can impact employee attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, attitudes of cynicism, and behaviors related to service innovation, knowledge hiding, and job searching. To do this, three hypotheses were developed and tested.

The hypotheses developed each center around outcomes of increased employee cynicism due to an organizational climate that tolerates incivility. Cynicism is described as the distrust and negative attitudes towards an organization. It is then hypothesized that increased employee cynicism can lead to negative behavioral changes related to (1) innovation, (2) knowledge hiding, and (3) job seeking. Innovative behavior may decrease when employees feel their company is not working to serve the overall good of the organization. Knowledge hiding behavior may increase if an employee feels distrust towards their company and feels the need to protect themselves and their position. Job seeking behavior may increase if an employee becomes disengaged and wants to leave the company. To understand influences on these behaviors, an empirical test was conducted.

The hotel industry in Jordan was used to test these hypotheses. The hotel industry was chosen for its known aggressive climate and high employee turnover rates. Jordan was chosen because of its economic climate and status as a developing country. It was believed that this particular combination would yield suitable results. The survey was conducted on 329 Jordanian hospitality employees. The survey was vetted for potential biases and the results were reviewed for statistical significance.

The results showed that tolerance to incivility in the workplace has a positive influence on employee cynicism, knowledge hiding, and job seeking. Surprisingly, tolerance to incivility did not have an impact on innovative behavior. One explanation offered for this result is potential cultural differences. It is possible that Arabian culture diverges in the way they handle innovative behavior as compared to the United States. As a result, hypothesis 1 was rejected while hypothesis 2 and 3 were supported.

The results of this test expand the current research available on the negative outcomes of workplace incivility. As found, tolerance to workplace incivility can create negative consequences for the organization. Organizations are encouraged to use these findings to create a climate that does not tolerate workplace incivility. This essay offers practical approaches to improve this issue such as zero-tolerance policies, training, meetings, and team building exercises. Further, it is stressed that these changes must come from management in order to successfully change the climate of the organization.

Ramsbotham, O., & Schiff, A. (2018). When Formal Negotiations Fail: Strategic Negotiation, Ripeness Theory, and the Kerry Initiative. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, 11 (4).

This essay applies theoretical conflict resolution approaches through a realistic, in-depth case analysis. The case study used for this was the 2013-2014 efforts of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s failed attempt at third-party peace making between Israel and Palestine. First, a background on the topic is provided followed by four theoretical approaches and how they may provide explanations for why negotiations failed. Further, strategic negotiation is reviewed as a possible solution for future attempts.

In 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began to re-initiate negotiations between Israel and Palestine in regards to a peace treaty. There had been several failed negotiation attempts on this conflict lead by the U.S. before. Kerry set aggressive goals, planning to have a resolution in nine months. However, skepticism from both sides as well as significant opposing stances on all core topics lead to an early stalemate. Kerry was forced to soften his goals, but was still unable to make progress as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians continued to intensify.

To understand Kerry’s failed mediation attempt, this essay analyzes the content through four theoretical approaches. The first theory analyzed was the ripeness theory. The ripeness theory is composed of two key elements. First, a mutually hurting stalemate must occur. This refers to when both parties view the situation as a standstill and are ready to find a way out of the conflict. Second, a way out, or the perception that the possibility of an agreement is reachable from both parties must occur. These two elements both lead to a level of readiness, or ripeness, which is necessary for the conflict to be resolved. It can be shown from both Israelis and Palestinians distrust toward one another that this conflict was not ripe to be resolved.

The next theory analyzed was the push and pull model. This model builds on the ripeness theory. First, the mutually hurting stalemate represents the push factor. This is needed for the parties to initiate negotiations. Second, a mutually enticing opportunity must be plausible. This is considered the pull factor and allows the negotiation to conclude. In this case, Israelis and Palestinians were so far opposed on all major topics that there was no perceived mutually enticing opportunity presented.

The third theory analyzed was the central coalition theory. This theory focuses on political readiness and examines the internal political structure of each party in conflict. It hinges on the idea that all members in the central coalition must be ready to negotiate and make an agreement. Both Israel and Palestine were experiencing political turmoil at the time of the conflict. These internal struggles within each country’s political system could have contributed to the failed negotiation.

The last theory analyzed was the principled negotiation theory. This theory is four-fold. First, the people must be separated out from the problem. Second, a focus on the interests of each party should be examined. Third, potential options are presented and the best solution for both parties is examined. Fourth, a criteria must be set to help determine the appropriate outcome. The theory asserts that if followed, these four steps will lead to healthy negotiations. In the case of Israel and Palestine, it has been speculated that it would have been nearly impossible to separate the people from the problem, especially as tensions continued to rise.

These four theories provide further insight into possible factors that could have contributed to the failing of the negotiation. Additionally, impacts directly from the third party were reviewed to present further implications. Three main impacts were identified. First, Kerry’s overly ambitious timeline of nine months could have pointed to a lack of understanding on the depth of the conflict. Second, Kerry’s actions were perceived as bias by both sides. Third, Kerry and his team showed an overall naïve understanding of the political factors underlying the issue. It is therefore offered in this essay that these three factors contributed to the failed attempt. While Kerry attempted to mediate the situation, it is possible that some of his actions instead became part of the conflict itself.

In the end, this essay suggests that the lack of readiness ultimately had the greatest impact on the failure of the negotiation. Because of this, strategic negotiation was examined. Strategic negotiation is based on the prenegotiation phase. It focuses on what needs to be done to allow the negotiation process to successfully occur. This strategy involves collective thinking, engagement, and third-party involvement. Collective strategic thinking requires the participation of both parties in conflict. It aims to understand the underlying reasons why the negotiation is not yet ready to occur. Next, strategic engagement builds on this to understand the desired outcome of each party. Last, a third-party is involved as a means to assist in the negotiation and ultimately assist in ending the conflict. If these three phases occur, strategic negotiation can aid in the prenegotiation stage and to a productive negotiation process.

Analyzing the context of this case study through four theoretical approaches provides possible explanations for the failure. Further, strategic negotiation offers a productive approach to preparing a conflict for negotiation. With Trump now in office and his commitment to again involve the U.S. in this conflict, it will be crucial to understand the reasons of the past failures and to learn from them. This essay provides such reasoning as well as possible solutions. It advocates for the use of strategic negotiation to bring this conflict to a level of readiness that will allow both sides to productively begin negotiations.