Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Sibin Wu
Dr. Michael Abebe
Dr. Jennifer Welbourne
Conflict is considered a multi-dimensional concept conveying both constructive and destructive overtones. Within a strategic decision-making team, conflict can have positive and negative effects, which collectively are considered `paradoxical' because they can simultaneously lead to improved group decisions along with decreased member commitment. Decision quality and commitment to the decision are a requisite of high performance; yet, some suggest that these cannot co-exist because of conflict's paradoxical effects in the decision-making process. The early consensus on conflict research suggests that one form of conflict, i.e. cognitive, yields positive effects, whereas another form of conflict, i.e. affective, yields negative results. Not surprisingly, then, these findings have led to practical implications that organizations should encourage increasing levels of cognitive conflict while completely avoiding affective conflict. However, recent findings have suggested that cognitive conflict has a threshold beyond which its positive effects cease to exist. Additionally, other findings suggest that affective conflict may yield a silver lining.
This dissertation puts forth that existing conflict theory is incomplete because it marginalizes certain real-world phenomenon (e.g. presence and assessment of emotions, attributions, conflict-handling behaviors, and organizational crises). The findings in this dissertation suggest that the effects of conflict are not as direct or unwavering as currently believed. First, this dissertation establishes that cognitive conflict is a nonlinear phenomenon and also establishes the threshold beyond which cognitive conflict ceases to have functional effects. Through the effects of certain moderating influences, the findings reveal how higher levels of cognitive conflict can be achieved while still yielding positive results from the conflict episode. Next, this dissertation addresses gaps in the literature to assess the effects of emotions, conflict-handling behaviors, and the environmental context in the conflict process. Additionally, the effects of individual attributions in the conflict process are also assessed.
The findings in this dissertation reveal that the relationships between conflict-type and decision outcomes (e.g. speed, quality, and commitment) are conditional upon the moderating influence of anger, competitive and collaborative behaviors, and high- and low-level crisis situations. Additionally, this dissertation finds that the relationships between conflict-type, anger, and conflict-handling behavior are themselves conditional upon an individual's attribution inferences.
The biggest contributions of this dissertation are in establishing the moderating roles of emotions, conflict-handling behavior, environmental context, and attributional inferences, respectively. Important findings are discussed, in terms of significant theoretical contributions and practical implications, within the scope of the dissertation's limitations. Finally, this dissertation culminates with suggestions for future research.
University of Texas-Pan American