Breaking Silos: A Field Experiment on Relational Conflict Management in Cross-Functional Teams

Abstract

In this paper we investigate how effective conflict management in conflict asymmetry situations impacts the quality of cross-functional management teams’ performance. During a 5-day business simulation, we explore the consequences of the relational conflicts and conflict asymmetry experienced by team members. We use two different measures of conflict asymmetry: the traditional group conflict asymmetry measurement of Jehn (Adm Sci Q 40:256–282, 1995) and a social networks method. We find that when some team members evoke more conflict than others, this affects the evolution of team dynamics (and ultimately the performance of the team) even more than high levels of conflict altogether; however, group emotional awareness can mitigate this negative effect and improve the team performance through the appropriate use of conflict management strategies. Since group emotional awareness can be fostered and trained within teams, this is of practical value to improve the performance of cross-functional management teams.

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Abbreviations

CMS:

Conflict management styles

GEA:

Group emotional awareness

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to the Vlerick Academic Research Fund, partially subsidized by the Flemish government, for their financial support to execute this research project.

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Correspondence to Smaranda Boroş.

Appendix

Appendix

Overview of the high-level decision map incorporated into the IMEx business simulation and the time period in which features are allowed to be changed by the management team (for illustration only, non-exhaustive)

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Boroş, S., van Gorp, L., Cardoen, B. et al. Breaking Silos: A Field Experiment on Relational Conflict Management in Cross-Functional Teams. Group Decis Negot 26, 327–356 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10726-016-9487-5

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Keywords

  • Relational conflict asymmetry
  • Conflict management strategies
  • Cross-functional teams
  • Group emotional awareness
  • Integration management
  • Social networks
  • Field experiment