Multiplex Conflict: Examining the Effects of Overlapping Task and Relationship Conflict on Advice Seeking in Organizations

Abstract

This study examines the extent to which multiplex conflict relationships, or those infused with both relationship and task conflict, are related to employee decisions regarding from whom to seek advice at work. Data were gathered from 75 employees in a medium-sized life sciences firm in the US Midwest and analyzed using social network analysis. Findings demonstrate that although employees were less likely to seek advice from someone with whom they experienced relationship conflict, employees were more likely to seek advice from those with whom they experienced task conflict. Moreover, advice was still sought from those with whom both forms of conflict were present simultaneously. The current study demonstrates that employees are willing to seek advice from those with whom there is task conflict despite the simultaneous presence of relationship conflict. Compared to relationships free of relationship conflict (e.g., friendships), those characterized by multiplex conflicts provide greater access to others with divergent perspectives while also reducing the need for advice seekers to invest resources towards the protection and maintenance of the positive affective portion of the relationship. Although much of the focus of conflict research has been directed towards intragroup task and relationship conflict, our multiplex social network approach provides a unique opportunity to explore the effects on advice seeking stemming from the co-occurrence of these distinct types of conflict within the same employee dyad. In doing so, we contribute to the continuing debate regarding the primacy of affective or cognitive concerns in judgment and behavior.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Post-hoc analyses revealed that gender moderated the relationship between conflict and advice seeking, with men more likely than women to seek advice from another person with whom they experienced either multiplex or relationship conflict (results available from the first author). This suggests that some individual characteristics might affect the evaluation of potential risks and rewards involved in advice seeking in the presence of interpersonal conflict.

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Table 4 Survey items

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Marineau, J.E., Hood, A.C. & Labianca, G.“. Multiplex Conflict: Examining the Effects of Overlapping Task and Relationship Conflict on Advice Seeking in Organizations. J Bus Psychol 33, 595–610 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-017-9511-z

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Keywords

  • Conflict
  • Advice
  • Social networks
  • Multiplex relationships