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The View from the Group: A Collectivist’s Perspective on Conflict Management in Organizations

International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution

Most research on organizational conflict presents a Western slant on conflict management at work. Expanding research to include non-Western cultures provides a more comprehensive sense of how conflict is managed in organizational settings worldwide.

A recent study examined managerial conflict behavior in a society currently transitioning from a more traditional culture to more modern one: Turkey. It investigated strategies used by managers when intervening in subordinates’ conflicts and the factors affecting choice of strategy in Turkish organizations. Data collected from managers in 59 organizations in Ankara revealed the critical importance of one motive: harmony. Although managers reported using a variety of strategies, including mediation, inquisitorial (similar to arbitration), motivational tactics, conflict reduction through restructuring, and educating the parties, the choice of tactic was largely influenced by the importance of maintaining face.

Prominent harmony values in the Turkish organizations were found to lead to prevalent use of mediation by managers. However, when harmony concerns were coupled with a low degree of delegation of authority to subordinates (high power distance), the study found an increased use of the inquisitorial strategy. Harmony emphasis, when combined with substantive (as opposed to personal) conflicts and with high impact conflicts led to a tendency to educate subordinates.

In fact, the results showed maintaining harmony was a predictor for every intervention strategy except for motivational strategy. This supports previous research on the face saving value of promoting harmony, which seeks to tone down harsh exchanges while still allowing the disputants have dignity when concessions are made.

Kozan, M.K., Ergin, C., & Varoglu, D. (2007). Third party intervention strategies of managers in subordinates’ conflicts in Turkey. International Journal of Conflict Management, 18(2), 128-147.

                        author

Christine Tsai

Christine Tsai spent her undergraduate years at the University of California – Riverside studying Psychology and heavily immersed in two laboratories, Eyewitness Identification and Culture & Personality. She focused on multiculturalism, particularly biculturalism, and participated in the 2007 Asian American Psychological Association on identity consistency research. Christine received her M.A. in… MORE >

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