I don’t feel positive, but you are: Every issue can be settled! The role of self and others’ positivity in the perception of intragroup conflict at work

  • Annalisa TheodorouEmail author
  • Stefano Livi
  • Guido Alessandri
  • Antonio Pierro
  • Gian Vittorio Caprara


Although personal resources support adjustment during hard times at work, social resources can have comparable influence in preventing the negative impact of adverse circumstances (Hobfoll 2001, 2002). This study investigates the contribution of both individual and group level positivity, a personal resource, in perceived intragroup conflict. Data on positivity and perceived intragroup conflict were collected from 140 employees belonging to 14 different groups at two different organizations and were analyzed using the Group Actor-Partner Interdependence Model (Kenny et al. 2012). Results showed that, in the case of low others’ positivity, high (vs. low) individual positivity led to lower intragroup conflict. However, when others’ positivity was high, there was no difference in reported intragroup conflict for high and low positive individuals. Findings highlighted the importance of a positive social environment in determining individual adjustment at work. Future research can address how the beneficial effect of positivity on intragroup conflict may transport on important organizational outcomes. Ultimately, this study suggests that organizations should sustain positivity, at both the individual and the group levels.


Positivity Intragroup conflict Person-group fit Group composition 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Statement of Human Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Statement on the Welfare of Animals

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Alessandri, G., Borgogni, L., Schaufeli, W. B., Caprara, G. V., & Consiglio, C. (2015). From positive orientation to job performance: The role of work engagement and self-efficacy beliefs. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(3), 767–788. Scholar
  3. Alessandri, G., Caprara, G. V., & Tisak, J. (2012). A unified latent curve, latent state-trait analysis of the developmental trajectories and correlates of positive orientation. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 47(3), 341–368. Scholar
  4. Anderson, M. H. (2009). The role of group personality composition in the emergence of task and relationship conflict within groups. Journal of Management & Organization, 15(1), 82–96. Scholar
  5. Antonovsky, A. (1979). Health, stress, and coping. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  6. Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., De Boer, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2003). Job demands and job resources as predictors of absence duration and frequency. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62(2), 341–356. Scholar
  7. Barrick, M. R., Stewart, G. L., Neubert, M. J., & Mount, M. K. (1998). Relating member ability and personality to work-team processes and team effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(3), 377–391. Scholar
  8. Behfar, K. J., Peterson, R. S., Mannix, E. A., & Trochim, W. M. (2008). The critical role of conflict resolution in teams: A close look at the links between conflict type, conflict management strategies, and team outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(1), 170–188. Scholar
  9. Bono, J. E., Boles, T. L., Judge, T. A., & Lauver, K. J. (2002). The role of personality in task and relationship conflict. Journal of Personality, 70(3), 311–344. Scholar
  10. Breaugh, J. (2010). Realistic job previews. In R. Watkins& & D. Leigh (Eds.), Handbook of improving performance in the workplace (Vol. 2, pp. 203–220). Pfeiffer: San Francisco. Scholar
  11. Caprara, G. V., Alessandri, G., & Barbaranelli, C. (2010). Optimal functioning: Contribution of self-efficacy beliefs to positive orientation. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 79(5), 328–330. Scholar
  12. Caprara, G. V., Alessandri, G., & Caprara, M. (2019). Associations of positive orientation with health and psychosocial adaptation: A review of findings and perspectives. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 22(2), 126–132. Scholar
  13. Caprara, G. V., Alessandri, G., Eisenberg, N., Kupfer, A., Steca, P., Caprara, M. G., Yamaguchi, S., Fukuzawa, A., & Abela, J. (2012a). The positivity scale. Psychological Assessment, 24(3), 701–712. Scholar
  14. Caprara, G. V., Alessandri, G., Trommsdorff, G., Heikamp, T., Yamaguchi, S., & Suzuki, F. (2012b). Positive orientation across three cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 43(1), 77–83. Scholar
  15. Caprara, G. V., Fagnani, C., Alessandri, G., Steca, P., Gigantesco, A., Cavalli Sforza, L. L., & Stazi, M. A. (2009). Human optimal functioning: The genetics of positive orientation towards self, life and the future. Behavior Genetics, 39(3), 277–284. Scholar
  16. Caprara, G. V., & Steca, P. (2005). Affective and social self-regulatory efficacy beliefs as determinants of positive thinking and happiness. European Psychologist, 10(4), 275–286. Scholar
  17. De Dreu, C. K., Van Dierendonck, D., & Dijkstra, M. T. (2004). Conflict at work and individual well-being. International Journal of Conflict Management, 15(1), 6–26. Scholar
  18. De Dreu, C. K., & Weingart, L. R. (2003). Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 741–749. Scholar
  19. De Wit, F. R., Greer, L. L., & Jehn, K. A. (2012). The paradox of intragroup conflict: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), 360–390. Scholar
  20. Echterhoff, G., Higgins, E. T., & Levine, J. M. (2009). Shared reality: Experiencing commonality with others' inner states about the world. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4(5), 496–521. Scholar
  21. Farnese, M. L., Fida, R., & Livi, S. (2016). Reflexivity and flexibility: Complementary routes to innovation? Journal of Management & Organization, 22(3), 404–419. Scholar
  22. Farnese, M. L., & Livi, S. (2016). How reflexivity enhances organizational innovativeness: The mediation role of team support for innovation and individual commitment. Knowledge Management Research and Practice, 14(4), 525–536. Scholar
  23. Field, R. D., Tobin, R. M., & Reese-Weber, M. (2014). Agreeableness, social self-efficacy, and conflict resolution strategies. Journal of Individual Differences, 35(2), 95–102. Scholar
  24. Friedman, R. A., Tidd, S. T., Currall, S. C., & Tsai, J. C. (2000). What goes around comes around: The impact of personal conflict style on work conflict and stress. International Journal of Conflict Management, 11(1), 32–55. Scholar
  25. Garcia, R. L., Meagher, B. R., & Kenny, D. A. (2015). Analyzing the effects of group members’ characteristics: A guide to the group actor–partner interdependence model. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 18(3), 315–328. Scholar
  26. Haferkamp, C. J. (1991). Orientations to conflict: Gender, attributions, resolution strategies, and self-monitoring. Current Psychology, 10(4), 227–240. Scholar
  27. Heikamp, T., Alessandri, G., Laguna, M., Petrovic, V., Caprara, M. G., & Trommsdorff, G. (2014). Cross-cultural validation of the positivity-scale in five European countries. Personality and Individual Differences, 71, 140–145. Scholar
  28. Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), 513–524. Scholar
  29. Hobfoll, S. E. (1998). Stress, culture, and community: The psychology and philosophy of stress. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hobfoll, S. E. (2001). The influence of culture, community, and the nested-self in the stress process: Advancing conservation of resources theory. Applied Psychology, 50(3), 337–421. Scholar
  31. Hobfoll, S. E. (2002). Social and psychological resources and adaptation. Review of General Psychology, 6(4), 307–324. Scholar
  32. Hobfoll, S. E. (2011a). Conservation of resource caravans and engaged settings. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(1), 116–122. Scholar
  33. Hobfoll, S. E. (2011b). Conservation of resources theory: Its implication for stress, health, and resilience. In S. Folkman (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping (pp. 127–147). New York: Oxford University Press, Inc..Google Scholar
  34. Hobfoll, S. E., Freedy, J., Lane, C., & Geller, P. (1990). Conservation of social resources: Social support resource theory. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7(4), 465–478. Scholar
  35. Hochwälder, J. (2015). Test of Antonovsky's postulate: High sense of coherence helps people avoid negative life events. Psychological Reports, 116(2), 363–376. Scholar
  36. Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 6(1), 1–55. Scholar
  37. Jehn, K. A. (1995). A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 256–282. Scholar
  38. Jehn, K. A. (1997). A qualitative analysis of conflict types and dimensions in organizational groups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(3), 530–557. Scholar
  39. Jehn, K. A., Greer, L., Levine, S., & Szulanski, G. (2008). The effects of conflict types, dimensions, and emergent states on group outcomes. Group Decision and Negotiation, 17(6), 465–495. Scholar
  40. Jehn, K. A., Northcraft, G. B., & Neale, M. A. (1999). Why differences make a difference: A field study of diversity, conflict and performance in workgroups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(4), 741–763. Scholar
  41. Kenny, D. A., & Garcia, R. L. (2012). Using the actor–partner interdependence model to study the effects of group composition. Small Group Research, 43(4), 468–496. Scholar
  42. Kenny, D. A., Mannetti, L., Pierro, A., Livi, S., & Kashy, D. A. (2002). The statistical analysis of data from small groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(1), 126–137. Scholar
  43. Kline, R. B. (2016). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (4th ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  44. Levine, J. M., & Higgins, E. T. (2001). Shared reality and social influence in groups and organizations. In F. Butera & G. Mugny (Eds.), Social influence in social reality: Promoting individual and social change (pp. 33–52). Ashland: Hogrefe & Huber.Google Scholar
  45. Livi, S., Alessandri, G., Caprara, G. V., & Pierro, A. (2015). Positivity within teamwork: Cross-level effects of positivity on performance. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 230–235. Scholar
  46. Livi, S., Theodorou, A., Rullo, M., Cinque, L., & Alessandri, G. (2018). The rocky road to prosocial behavior at work: The role of positivity and organizational socialization in preventing interpersonal strain. PLoS One, 13(3).
  47. Luthans, F. (2002). Positive organizational behavior: Developing and managing psychological strengths. Academy of Management Perspectives, 16(1), 57–72. Scholar
  48. Moreland, R. L., & Levine, J. M. (2006). Socialization in organizations and work groups. In J. M. Levine & R. L. Moreland (Eds.), Small groups: Key readings (pp. 469–498). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  49. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B.O. (1998-2017). Mplus User’s Guide (8th ed.). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  50. Oyserman, D., Coon, H. M., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2002). Rethinking individualism and collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 128(1), 3–72. Scholar
  51. Park, H., & Antonioni, D. (2007). Personality, reciprocity, and strength of conflict resolution strategy. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(1), 110–125. Scholar
  52. Pierro, A., Sheveland, A., Livi, S., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2015). Person-group fit on the need for cognitive closure as a predictor of job performance, and the mediating role of group identification. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 19(2), 77–90. Scholar
  53. Pluut, H., & Curşeu, P. L. (2013). Perceptions of intragroup conflict: The effect of coping strategies on conflict transformation and escalation. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 16(4), 412–425. Scholar
  54. Sackett, P. R., & Lievens, F. (2008). Personnel selection. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 419–450. Scholar
  55. Simons, T. L., & Peterson, R. S. (2000). Task conflict and relationship conflict in top management teams: The pivotal role of intragroup trust. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(1), 102–111. Scholar
  56. Srivastava, S., McGonigal, K. M., Richards, J. M., Butler, E. A., & Gross, J. J. (2006). Optimism in close relationships: How seeing things in a positive light makes them so. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91(1), 143–153. Scholar
  57. Sutcliffe, K. M., & Vogus, T. (2003). Organizing for resilience. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship (pp. 94–110). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.Google Scholar
  58. Theodorou, A., Violani, C., & Alessandri, G. (2017). Vivere senza un lavoro: Positività e salute psicofisica in un campione di disoccupati [living without a job: Positivity and psychophysical health in a sample of unemployed workers]. Giornale Italiano di Psicologia, 44(4), 993–1006. Scholar
  59. Tidd, S. T., McIntyre, H. H., & Friedman, R. A. (2004). The importance of role ambiguity and trust in conflict perception: Unpacking the task conflict to relationship conflict linkage. International Journal of Conflict Management, 15(4), 364–380. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Developmental PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations