Date of Award

8-1999

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Major Professor

Eric Sundstrom

Committee Members

Joyce Russell, Dudley Dewhirst, Tom Ladd

Abstract

A longitudinal field study examined team effectiveness, including both performance and viability, in relation to team conflict management strategies and three types of team conflict. Hypotheses predicted that integrative conflict-management strategies would correlate with team performance and viability, and that these relationships would vary with the level and type of team conflict. Teams using integrative conflict management styles were expected to have higher performance and viability than teams using less integrative styles. When higher levels of relationship conflict were perceived by the team, the performance and viability of teams using a more integrative strategy would be higher than teams using less a integrative strategy. Finally, the performance of teams using more integrative strategy would be higher than teams using less integrative strategy, when higher levels of task conflict are perceived by the team.

Participants for this study were 323 student members of 77 intact instructional teams. Individual members completed questionnaires mid-semester and late semester. The questionnaire was used to assess all variables expect performance: three conflict-management strategies - collaborative, compromising, and avoiding; three types of conflict - relationship, task, and process; and team viability. Team performance was assessed through instructors' grades, and were standardized within their respective courses. Participating teams were from graduate programs in business administration and accounting, and undergraduate engineering and business administration courses. From 50% to 100% of the students' grades were dependent on team performance.

Results showed that perceived relationship conflict and task conflict were both significantly and inversely related to team viability. Relationship conflict was more predictive of viability than task conflict. The relationship between integrative conflict-management strategies, relationship conflict and viability was also significant. Similarly, when controlling for the level of relationship conflict or task conflict, integrative conflict-management strategies and performance were found to be significant. The interaction between relationship conflict and compromising conflict-management strategy was significant for performance. Implications are discussed.

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