Article Review: Problem Solving in Teams
e focus on team problem solving, the factors that positively and negatively team problem solving, including the team leader’s role, as well as the topics of creativity and diversity in relation it all. The focus of the group’s efforts, the climate in which the group works, and the type of communication being used all affect how effectively a group can solve problems. Be sure to focus on the ways in which the article could help with team leadership in organizations or how it will help you with situations in situations that require sound problem solving techniques and processes.
Conflict management between and within
teams for trusting relationships and
performance in China
PAUL S. HEMPEL
, ZHI-XUE ZHANG
AND DEAN TJOSVOLD
Department of Management, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong
Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, Beijing, China
Department of Management, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Trusting relationships are increasingly considered vital for making teams productive. We
propose that cooperative management of conflict can help team members to be convinced that
their teammates are trustworthy. Results from 102 organizations in China support the
theorizing that how teams to manage conflict with each other affects within-team conflict
management. Specifically, cooperative conflict between teams helps teams to manage their
internal conflicts cooperatively that strengthens trust that in turn facilitates team performance.
Results provide support for managing conflict cooperatively as a foundation for trusting,
productive relationships in China as well as in the West. Copyright
2008 John Wiley &
Researchers in the West have joined those in the East in arguing that developing trusting relationships is
key to understand organizational dynamics as well as promoting organizational productivity (Gersick,
Bartunek, & Dutton, 2000; Kostova & Roth, 2003; Kramer & Tyler, 1996; Lewicki & Wiethoff, 2000;
Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer, 1998). Strong, trusting relationships are expected to underline such
critical areas as productive teamwork and effective leadership (Dirks, 2000, 1999; Hui & Graen, 1997).
However, developing these relationships in teams can be quite challenging. Team members must cope
not only with their own leaders and colleagues but also with the demands and behaviors of other teams.
This study argues that incompatible activities within teams can be handled in ways that help team
members to strengthen their trusting relationships (De Dreu, Weingart, & Kwon, 2000; Lovelace,
Shapiro, & Weingart, 2001). Longitudinal studies have shown that conflict influences trust, which in
turn has an effect upon performance (Langfred, 2007). This study proposes that it is the way in which
conflict is managed that influences trust within teams. How conflicts affect trust is a particularly
significant issue within China where the data for this study were collected. Chinese people value
trusting relationships very much but are wary of conflict and rely on conflict avoidance (Kirkbride,
Journal of Organizational Behavior
J. Organiz. Behav.
, 41–65 (2009)
Published online 15 May 2008 in Wiley InterScience
* Correspondence to: Paul S. Hempel, Department of Management, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong.
E-mail: mg[email protected]
2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 2 April 2007
Revised 19 March 2008
Accepted 6 April 2008
Tang, & Westwood, 1991; Leung, 1997; Triandis, McCusker, & Hui, 1990). This study uses Deutsch’s
(1973) framework of cooperative and competitive approaches to conflict to understand that how
conflicts may contribute to, as well as undermine, trust between team members. In particular, we
propose that team members who manage conflict cooperatively rather than competitively develop trust
(Deutsch, 1973; McAllister, 1995). This study further proposes that the approaches in managing
conflict between teams within an organization is a foundation upon which team members develop their
approach to manage conflict within their teams.
This study adds value to our present knowledge in several ways. In addition to support research
showing that productively managed conflict can strengthen trust between team members and thereby
improve team performance, it suggests that the way in which teams manage conflict with other teams
within the organization affects how team members deal with conflicts within their team (Kozlowski &
Klein, 2000; Marks, DeChurch, Mathieu, Panzer, & Alonso, 2005). More generally, it supports
Deutsch’s (2005) argument that external conflict affects internal conflict, and in particular that conflict
management between teams affects conflict handling within teams. Finally, this study adds value by
empirically testing the extent to which the theory of cooperation and competition developed in the West
is useful to analyze conflict within and between teams in Chinese organizations.
The value of trust
Trust can be defined as perceived trustworthiness where people expect support and believe that they
have a relationship where they can discuss issues and rely upon each other (Ferrin, Dirks, & Shah,
2006; Lewicki, McAllister, & Bies, 1998). McAllister (1995) has distinguished affect-based trust—
feelings of emotional involvement and genuine caring for each other’s welfare—and cognition-based
trust—beliefs that others are responsible and competent—and argued that they are the foundations for
collaboration in organizations.
In addition to being increasingly aware that groups have considerable potential for solving a range of
critical organizational problems (Banker, Field, Schroeder, & Sinhan, 1997), researchers and
practitioners appreciate that group members may suppress their ideas and fail to coordinate their
expertise and that teams may undermine motivation and induce social loafing (Aldag & Fuller, 1993;
Ilgen, 1999; Karau & Williams, 1993). Theorists have recently joined managers in arguing that the
nature of interpersonal relationships among group members has dramatic effects on the coordination of
resources needed for team effectiveness (Gersick et al., 2000; Kostova & Roth, 2003; Kramer & Tyler,
1996; Lewicki & Wiethoff, 2000; Rousseau et al., 1998).
In particular, researchers have argued that trusting relationships affect team processes and underlie
team effectiveness (Langfred, 2007). Dirks (1999, 2000) found that trust facilitated team coordination
and performance, whereas distrust led team members to focus on their individual performance.
Relatedly, Edmondson (1999) found that ‘‘psychological safety’’, where team members accept rather
than punish or reject well-intentioned action, helps team members to learn from their mistakes. Trust
appears to be particularly useful for diverse teams where members belong to different departments and
organizations (Aulakh, Kotabe, & Sahay, 1996; Krishnan, Martin, & Noorderhaven, 2006; Kumar,
The value of trusting relationships appears to be particularly true in China, where this study was
conducted. Guanxi, relational bonds that consist of both affective and instrumental components, has
been thought critical for doing business in China. As collectivists, Chinese people are theorized to
value interpersonal relationships very much and avoid aggressive ways of working with others
(Kirkbride et al., 1991; Leung, 1997; Morris et al., 1998; Triandis et al., 1990). Effective relationships
2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
J. Organiz. Behav.
, 41–65 (2009)
P. S. HEMPEL