Intergenerational conflict in the workplace : an integration of dual concern model and social identity theory

工作跨代衝突 : 社會身份認同理論與雙重利益模型的整合研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Chun Yip Henry HO


Awarding Institution
Award date3 Oct 2014


Objectives: With the upsurge of older adults still working, the labor force is becoming increasingly diverse in age. Age diversity in an organization can increase the likelihood of intergenerational conflict, which is commonly caused by dissatisfactory communication between younger and older adults. Therefore, intergenerational conflict research has received much attention in the past decade with emphasis on the differences between generations. However, these studies did not take into consideration of the underlying mechanism of intergenerational conflict. To address this gap in literature, two studies were conducted in this project with the aim to integrate two major theoretical approaches, namely dual concern model and social identity theory, in order to systematically examine factors that influence the ways to handle intergenerational conflict in the workplace. Method: In Study 1, an experiment using 2 (Subgroup identity salience: low VS high younger/older group membership) x 2 (Superordinate identity salience: low VS high organizational group membership) factorial design was conducted to assess whether the two theories could be combined as an integrated model. In particular, through manipulating subgroup and superordinate identity salience, hypotheses regarding their impacts on motivational orientation and conflict strategies were tested. Data was analyzed using repeated measures ANCOVAs with the four experimental conditions as the independent variable, motivational orientation and conflict strategies as the dependent variables, and demographic variables and interdependent self-construal as covariates. In Study 2, a cross-sectional survey was carried out among clerical workers in Hong Kong to investigate the associations among social identity, motivational orientation, goal orientation, and conflict strategies. In particular, superordinate and subgroup identities were hypothesized to have both direct and indirect interaction effects on conflict strategies through the mediation of motivational orientation/goal orientation. Data was analyzed using moderated mediation in order to clarify these relationships. Results: Partially consistent with the predictions of the integrated model of conflict, results of Study 1 revealed that social identity salience had a significant impact on conflict strategies: 1) social identification at both subgroup and superordinate levels promoted the use of integrating and compromising strategies; 2) when social identity was only salient at the superordinate level, obliging strategy was more likely to be used; 3) when subgroup and superordinate identities were not salient, avoiding strategy was more likely to be used; and 4) participants whose identity was salient only at the subgroup level were more likely to utilize dominating strategy than those who were identified at the subgroup and superordinate levels. However, the hypotheses on motivational orientation were not supported. Consistent with these findings, Study 2 found that the relationship between social identity and conflict strategies could be accounted for by goal orientation but not motivational orientation. Workers who were highly identified as members of the organization emphasized less on independent goals and more on cooperative goals, and thus, they used more conflict de-escalation strategies, including integrating, obliging, and compromising strategies. This effect was strengthened depending on their subgroup identity of age. Conclusion: Findings from both studies provided empirical support to the integrated model of conflict. Superordinate identity salience encourages harmony and cooperation with other members in order to achieve a solution for the greater good of the group. In contrast, subgroup identity salience motivates in-group favoritism and provokes intergroup conflict in order to achieve a higher status for the individual and enhance their sense of self. The optimal condition for reaching integrative solutions would be to acknowledge identity at a superordinate level while subgroup identities are maintained. This research provides important contributions to the development of the integrated model of conflict and to the understanding of the underlying mechanisms of intergenerational conflict in the workplace.

    Research areas

  • Diversity in the workplace, Conflict of generations in the workplace, Intergenerational relations, Group identity