Examining Conflict Behaviors among Six Hierarchical Levels: Implications for Organizational Change

By Kristen M. H. Bohlander.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Organizational change often coincides with conflict. The manner in which organizational leaders respond to conflict influences trust, teamwork, organizational-citizenship behaviors, commitment, and job satisfaction, all of which are vital to successful change initiatives. The purpose of this study is to (a) discuss differences between conflict styles and conflict behaviors, (b) examine mean differences and predictive relationships between hierarchical level and workplace conflict behaviors, and (c) discuss how conflict behavior assessment among hierarchical levels can benefit organizational change management and to reconsider conventional workplace-conflict assessments by incorporating a behavioral conflict profile. This study was conducted using existing data collected on the Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP), an instrument that measures constructive and destructive conflict behaviors. Managers (n = 5,034) at six different hierarchical levels from various government, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations were rated on their conflict behaviors by their bosses, direct reports, and peers. MANOVA, correlation, and linear regression models tested mean differences and relationships between hierarchical level and conflict behaviors. Results indicated a small but significant correlation between hierarchical level and destructive behaviors. Behaviors are more destructive among the top three hierarchical levels than the bottom three levels. Implications for conflict management during organizational change are discussed.

Keywords: Conflict Behavior, Constructive Conflict Behavior, Destructive Conflict Behavior, Conflict Styles, Hierarchical Level, Organizational Change, Change Management, Conflict Assessment

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 10, Issue 7, pp.97-118. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 830.345KB).

Dr. Kristen M. H. Bohlander

Assistant Professor, Management, Eckerd College, Saint Petersburg, Florida, USA


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