Moving Beyond Relationship and Task Conflict: Toward a Process-State Perspective


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Abstract

Teams are formed to benefit from an expanded pool of expertise and experience, yet 2 aspects of the conflict stemming from those core differences will ultimately play a large role in determining team viability and productivity: conflict states and conflict processes. The current study theoretically reorganizes the literature on team conflict—distinguishing conflict states from conflict processes—and details the effects of each on team effectiveness. Findings from a meta-analytic cumulation of 45 independent studies (total number of teams = 3,218) suggest states and processes are distinct and important predictors of team performance and affective outcomes. Controlling for conflict states (i.e., task and relationship conflict), conflict processes explain an additional 13% of the variance in both team performance and team affective outcomes. Furthermore, findings reveal particular conflict processes that are beneficial and others detrimental to teams. The truth about team conflict: Conflict processes, that is, how teams interact regarding their differences, are at least as important as conflict states, that is, the source and intensity of their perceived incompatibilities.

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