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Effectiveness Study – Conflict and Your Career

According to a new study from the Management Development Institute, there’s a strong link between a person’s ability to resolve conflict effectively and his or her perceived effectiveness as a leader-and therefore, his or her likelihood of promotion.

The sample for this study consisted of 172 employees (90 male; 82 female) of five different organizations that varied in their nature: a resort hotel, a manufacturing company, an insurance company, and two governmental agencies. Roughly half of these individuals were middle-level managers or higher in their organizations. All of them were participating in a program on conflict provided to their organization by the Management Development Institute (MDI) of Eckerd College; these programs were part of the process of developing and validating MDI’s Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP).

As part of the program, each employee completed the CDP regarding himself/herself; in addition, the CDP was also typically completed by that person’s boss, 4 peers, and 4 direct reports. In some cases, data is missing because the person did not receive evaluations from all three sources, but in most cases complete or nearly-complete data were available.

In addition to the CDP, the bosses, peers, and direct reports also completed a brief measure on which they indicated how effective the individual was in several areas: the two of concern in this study were as an “excellent leader of people” and an “excellent candidate for promotion”. In each case, ratings were made on a 5-point scale running from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”.

Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated to determine how strongly these ratings of effectiveness were associated with the way that the person was seen as dealing with conflict, as measured by the CDP. In these analyses, boss’s ratings of an employee’s effectiveness were correlated with the boss’s ratings of the employee on the CDP, peers’ ratings of effectiveness with peers’ ratings on the CDP, and direct reports’ ratings of effectiveness with their ratings on the CDP. These findings appear in the following table entitled “Average Correlations with Ratings of Overall Effectiveness”.

Boss Peers Reports Boss Peers Reports
Effective Leader .54 .56 .58 .35 .38 .41
Candidate for Promotion .48 .57 .57 .34 .39 .45

Boss Peers Reports Boss Peers Reports
Effective Leader -.24 -.27 -.31 -.29 -.25 -.23
Candidate for Promotion -.30 -.32 -.46 -.21 -.26 -.19

The values in the table are correlation coefficients, which can range in size from -1.0 to +1.0. A correlation of 0.00 would indicate that there is no relationship at all between two variables; as the correlation diverges from zero and approaches 1.0 (or -1.0) it indicates a stronger and stronger relationship. In social science research, correlations in excess of .40 (or -.40) suggest that there is some substantial association between two variables; a number of correlations in the table fall into this category.

The responses revealed strong correlations between certain conflict resolution behaviors and perceived suitability for promotion. Highlights included:

Best leadership/career advancement behaviors: include active constructive behaviors of perspective taking, creating solutions, expressing emotions, and reaching out . Participants rated with these behaviors were considered more effective leaders and the most suitable for promotion.

Worst leadership/career advancement behaviors: include active destructive behaviors, such as winning at all costs, displaying anger, demeaning others, and retaliating. Bosses found avoidance behaviors to be particularly problematic. Participants rated with these behaviors were generally not considered to be effective leaders or suitable for promotion.


Craig Runde

Craig Runde is the Director of Center for Conflict Dynamics and Mediation Training Institute at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL. He oversees the Conflict Dynamics Profile, Becoming Conflict Competent course, and Mediation Training Institute programs.  Craig is the co-author of Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader, Building Conflict Competent Teams, and… MORE >

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