The influence of interpersonal flexibility on work team conflict over time
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Today a majority of business organizations utilize work team designs in an effort to gain a competitive edge. A multitude of factors exert varying levels of influence on work teams, however, few are as potentially pernicious as conflict. Although conflict in work teams has received much attention within the literature, there is notable absence of investigations that have considered the influence of interpersonal factors on conflict within team settings. The present longitudinal, field investigation sought to address this deficit by examining the influence of interpersonal flexibility on work team conflict and conflict-related consequences in 20 naturally occurring M.B.A. project teams. The following research questions were addressed: (1) What is the relationship of interpersonal flexibility to team conflict? (2) What is the relationship of interpersonal flexibility to team outcome? (3) To what extent does interpersonal flexibility predict team conflict occurrence? (4) To what extent does interpersonal flexibility predict team outcome? (5) What is the trajectory of team conflict and outcomes over time based on member interpersonal flexibility? In addressing the questions, a series of Pearson correlations, one-way ANOVA, and GLM repeated measure analyses were conducted. Results suggest a connection between interpersonal flexibility and the experience of work team conflict. Interpersonal flexibility was negatively associated with conflict occurrence and positively associated with satisfaction, commitment, and effectiveness at some points in time. More importantly, interpersonal flexibility seems to explain a small to moderate amount of variance in the conflict and team outcome variables. Individuals and teams with a higher degree of interpersonal flexibility tended to report lower levels of conflict within their work teams and more satisfaction with their team membership. A consistent relationship between interpersonal flexibility level and member commitment or team effectiveness was not established. In addition, team interpersonal flexibility was not demonstrated to be predictive of team performance. The present investigation suggests that interpersonal flexibility exerts an important influence in work teams. However, additional research is essential toward fully understanding how and to what degree work team functioning can be explained by interpersonal flexibility.
Baugh, Frank Godard (2004). The influence of interpersonal flexibility on work team conflict over time. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from