ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 52 ›› Issue (3): 345-356.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2020.00345

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The impact of conflict on performance: The moderating effects of individual and team agreeableness

Wei WEI1,Yanran FANG2,Jiannan LI3,Junqi SHI4,Shenjiang MO4()   

  1. 1 Lingnan College, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510275, China
    2 Warrington College of Business, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, US
    3 International School of Business & Finance, Sun Yat-sen University, Zhuhai 519082, China
    4 School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
  • Received:2019-05-14 Published:2020-03-25 Online:2020-01-18
  • Contact: Shenjiang MO


Based on the nature of conflict, conflict within teams can be categorized as relationship conflict and task conflict. It is inevitable for team members to experience these two types of conflict with each other through daily interactions. As such, how dispositions of team members interact with intra-team conflict to minimize its harm and maximize its benefit appears to be an important research question. Prior research has primarily focused on how individual’s traits or team traits would affect the outcomes of conflict. According the Person-Group Fit theory, it’s necessary to study the interaction effect of the traits on both the individual and team level. Distinct from other personality factors in the Five Factor Model, agreeableness involves the motives for maintaining harmony and positive interpersonal relationship, which fundamentally determine the propensity for individuals to deal with others in social interactions. In conflict management scenarios, individuals with high agreeableness are more likely to adopt agreeable conflict management, characterized as integrating one another’s ideas and seeking to satisfy all members’ expectations, thus leading to more effective conflict resolution. Taking a multilevel perspective, this study investigated how individual-level agreeableness interacts with team-level agreeableness heterogeneity to impact the relations between task/relationship conflict and job performance.
Hypotheses were tested using multisource and time-lagged data collected from 64 teams. Data were collected from client service teams of a large state-owned bank located in South China. A total of 75 service teams of the bank (394 subordinates and 75 supervisors) were contacted and invited to participate. All participants were told that the data were used only for research purpose only, and their responses would be kept confidential and anonymous. Participants filled out the questionnaires during morning meetings, and research assistants then collected their responses after they completed the survey. The data were collected at three time points with two-month intervals. At Time 1, subordinates reported their levels of agreeableness as well as demographic information. Their immediate supervisors were also asked to report their demographic information. At Time 2 (two months after Time 1), subordinates were asked to report their perceptions of relationship conflict and task conflict within the team. At Time 3 (four months after Time 1), subordinates’ job performance was rated by their immediate supervisors. To ensure that the responses of participating team members reflect the whole team, we only included teams with at least 70% of members participating in the survey. In total, we collected 339 valid subordinate responses and 64 valid supervisor responses from 64 teams.
Most of the hypotheses were supported by data analysis. Results demonstrated that relationship conflict was negatively related to job performance, but the relationship between task conflict and job performance was not significant. Further, individual agreeableness both buffered the negative effect of relationship conflict and enhanced the positive effect of task conflict on job performance. Specifically, when individual agreeableness was high, the negative relationship between relationship conflict and job performance was non-significant. By contrast, when individual agreeableness was low, such relationship became negative and significant. As far as task conflict is concerned, when individual agreeableness was high, the positive relationship between task conflict and job performance was significant. However, when individual agreeableness was low such relationship was negative and significant. In addition, there were three-way interactions among individual conflict, individual agreeableness, and team agreeableness heterogeneity on job performance, such that the two-way interactions between task/relationship conflict and individual agreeableness were stronger when team agreeableness heterogeneity was low.
This study contributions to the current literature in several ways. First, our study moves beyond the single level perspective of intra-team conflict to examine the individual-team interface in conflict managing using person-group fit theory. Second, the current study highlights the essential role of agreeableness in the process of conflict management by examining the roles that individual agreeableness and team agreeableness heterogeneity play in shaping the relations between conflict and job performance. Third, by studying relationship conflict and task conflict simultaneously, this study reflected the effect of agreeableness in managing different types of conflict. Practically, our research informs the professional managers about managing team conflict in an effective manner. Based on our findings, when assigning new work teams or selecting new members for existing teams, it is beneficial to select similar team members with high agreeableness, especially when the team tasks involve frequent social interactions that are likely to trigger intrateam conflict.

Key words: agreeableness, team agreeableness heterogeneity, task conflict, relationship conflict, job performance

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