Interpersonal conflict and resolution strategies: An examination of Hong Kong employees

Alicia S M LEUNG*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the effect of interpersonal conflict on team performance. Design/methodology/approach - The paper takes the form of a qualitative study in which a total of 40 executives were interviewed who represented employees working in various Chinese organizations. Findings - The paper finds causes of conflicts including a demanding boss, inconsistency between word and deed, and in-group favouritism. The conflict-resolving strategies were categorized as avoidance and cooperative. No competitive or confrontational strategies were adopted. Avoidance strategies involved deference to authority, giving face and maintaining harmony, whereas cooperative strategies involved building trust. Practical implications - Avoidance strategies discourage open communication and clarification, which further suppresses hidden conflicts. This leads to forbearance and the suppression of personal goals in pursuit of a superficial harmonious yet conflicting relationship. In contrast, cooperative strategies have much to offer. However, adopting a cooperative strategy can have both a positive and a negative effect on a team's performance. On the positive side, trust is an essential component in cooperation that promotes synergistic relationships. On the negative side, it induces low conflict efficacy among employees, because they feel obliged to identify with the boss's goals and values, and be faithful. Originality/value - On an individual level, failing to comply with differences and relational contracts can be perceived as a personal deficiency, and these attributions can adversely affect employees' short-term career prospects and long-term career development. On an organization level, interpersonal conflict can result in higher rates of turnover and absenteeism, and time can be lost owing to angry emotional reactions that in turn translate into financial losses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)165-178
    Number of pages14
    JournalTeam Performance Management
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Management Information Systems
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
    • Management of Technology and Innovation

    User-Defined Keywords

    • China
    • Collectivism
    • Conflict resolution
    • Interpersonal relations


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