Managing conflict at work : Comparison between younger and older managerial employees

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

18 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-364
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Purpose – This study aimed to examine younger and older employees’ use of five conflict strategies to handle an actual conflict incident with other employees. With reference to the socioemotional selectivity theory, this study tests whether older employees, as compared with younger employees, would use more avoiding to handle conflicts with supervisors but less dominating to handle conflicts with subordinates. Moreover, this study investigates whether the interaction effect between role of the conflict partner and age would be explained by goal interdependence. Furthermore, it also tests whether the negative effect of avoiding on interpersonal relations and job satisfaction would be moderated by age. Design/methodology/approach – The three hypotheses were tested in a sample of 280 Chinese managerial and executive employees aged between 22 and 66 years. Participants were asked to recall their behavioral responses to an actual conflict incident with other employees. Findings – Results showed that relative to younger employees, older employees utilized more avoiding to deal with conflicts with supervisors and less dominating with subordinates. Such age differences in avoiding and dominating strategies were found to be explained by cooperative and independent goals held by the participants in the conflict incident. In addition, the negative effect of avoiding on interpersonal relations was only shown among younger employees but not among older employees. Originality/value – This finding suggests that the use of passive strategies is not always harmful to working adults, largely depending on the age of the users.

Research Area(s)

  • Avoiding, Conflict strategies, Dominating, Older workers