Workplace Conflict, Emotions, and Strain: A Process Approach

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Kay, Sophie Auste
Weiss, Howard M.
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Organizational conflict is a context where emotions must be managed and should therefore include a process of emotion regulation. There are some investigations of emotion regulation as a moderator of conflict (e.g., Curşeu, Boroş, & Oerlemans, 2012; Jiang, Zhang, & Tjosvold, 2013; Thiel, Harvey, Courtright, & Bradley, 2017), but this work does not theoretically integrate the emotion regulation or emotional labor process perspectives to the study of conflict. I draw on recent theory of the role of emotions in conflict expression (Weingart, Behfar, Bendersky, & Jehn, 2015) and integrate theory from emotional labor to better understand the conflict process and its effects on strain. In an experience sampling study with full-time workers, I investigate how conflict expressions impact emotional reactions and strain outcomes. I find that how conflict is expressed impacts emotional reactions to conflict. Conflict intensity related to strain outcome of emotional exhaustion, but not work withdrawal or sleep quality. End of workday emotional exhaustion was most sensitive to the effects of conflict expressions and this relationship was mediated by negative affect. Further, use of deep acting emotion regulation buffered the detrimental effect of negative affect impacting emotional exhaustion. Implications for the workplace and ideas for future work are discussed.
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