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Things are not always what they seem: the origins and evolution of intragroup conflict


Administrative Science Quarterly


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Shah P;Peterson R S;Jones S L;Ferguson A J


Publication Year



Teams scholars have historically conceptualized and measured intragroup conflict at the team level. However, emerging evidence suggests that perceptions of intragroup conflict are oftentimes not uniform, shared, or static. These findings suggest important questions about the microfoundations of intragroup conflict: Where does conflict within teams originate? And how does it evolve over time? We address these and other questions in three abductive studies. We consider four origination points: an individual, dyad, subgroup, or team, and three evolutionary trajectories: conflict continuity, contagion, and concentration. Study 1, a qualitative study of narrative accounts, and Study 2, a longitudinal social networks study of student teams, reveal that fewer than 30 percent of teams experience team-level conflict. Instead, conflict more commonly originates and persists at individual, dyadic, or subgroup levels. Study 2 further demonstrates traditional psychometric intragroup conflict scales mask the existence of these various origins and trajectories of conflict. Study 3, a field study of manufacturing teams, reveals individual and dyadic task conflict origins positively predict team performance, whereas traditional intragroup task conflict measures negatively predict team performance. The results raise serious concerns about current methods and theory in team conflict literature and suggest that researchers must go beyond team-level conceptualizations of conflict.


Dyadic conflict; Intragroup conflict; Subgroups; Temporal dynamics

Available on ECCH


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