conflict & communication online, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003
ISSN 1618-0747




Dorothea Hamdorf
Towards managing diversity: Cultural aspects of conflict management in organizations

This study investigated cultural aspects of conflict management in organizations in response to the growing need for an understanding of how people from diverse cultural backgrounds can work together without the often-resulting problem of intercultural conflict.
Culture was evaluated through self-assessments of how independent or interdependent the subjects were (Markus & Kitayama, 1991), and conflict behavior through eight conflict management styles: dominating, integrating, compromising, avoiding, obliging, emotion, neglect and third-party help (Rahim, 1983; Ting-Toomey et al., 2000). Furthermore, drawing upon face-negotiation theory (Ting-Toomey, 1988; Ting-Toomey & Kurogi, 1998), a test was made of whether self-face, other-face and mutual-face concerns could explain cultural differences in conflict behavior.
A total of 185 professionals from different countries completed an Internet questionnaire.
An exploratory factor analysis of the eight styles revealed three factors which seem to describe direct, indirect and integrating plus compromising conflict behaviors.
In line with this study's hypotheses, persons with a tendency to act independently mentioned direct styles, as well as integrating, and persons with a tendency to act interdependently mentioned indirect styles in addition to integrating and compromising. Furthermore, a concern for self-face maintenance was related to direct conflict behavior, a concern for other-face maintenance to indirect conflict behavior, and a concern for mutual-face maintenance to integrating and compromising.
However, persons with a tendency to act independently do not seem to be particularly concerned about self-face maintenance. Persons with a tendency to act interdependently, on the other hand, show other- and mutual-face concerns in conflict situations. It was concluded that face concerns do play a crucial role, but mainly in explaining the conflict behavior of persons with a tendency to act interdependently. This was supported by the fact that other-face concern mediated their readiness for conflict avoidance.
These results are discussed and implications for further research are presented.


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On the author: Dorothea Hamdorf, Dipl.-Psych, born 1973 in Bad Säckingen. Studies of psychology and 1999-2002 member of the work groups for Peace Research and Psychological Methodology at the University of Konstanz. Special interest: intercultural conflict management. On the basis of an additional qualification in project management, she is now working on personal and organizational development in an international company.

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