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The aim of this research was to predict cooperative and competitive conflict management styles in 26 new start-up work teams (time 1), and after one year of functioning (time 2) in an automotive company. Building team-based working organizations has become a key activity for human resource practitioners and departments (West & Markiewicz, 2004). However, as West (1996) mentioned, few authors have integrated these approaches from a longitudinal and multilevel point of view.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many concepts were used by different schools of thought to refer to the constructs of individualism and collectivism. Horizontal Collectivists (HC) do not accept inequality between members and see themselves as a part of their in-group. Cross-cultural literature has shown that collectivist cultures tend to utilize integrative conflict management styles (Rahim, 1988). Focusing on the individual level, the definition of the self for each cultural pattern orientation has become a major concern among researchers. Classical group effectiveness theories have focused on multiple input and process characteristics responsible for attitudinal and productivity outcomes in groups (Salas, Stagl, & Burke, 2004).
In high positive interdependent contexts (Deutsch, 1973), establishing goals for both groups and individuals has been defined as «an optimal strategy to increase group outcomes through cooperation» (Locke & Lathman, 1984, p. Hypothesis 3: Goal interdependence will predict higher levels of cooperative conflict management style.
The link between goal interdependence and the competitive style is not as straightforward as that between goal interdependence and the cooperative style.
With the new work system implemented in the organization of this study, work group sizes were reduced and higher autonomy was given to teams as well as to individuals (see procedure). Cooperation seems to be more effective when accompanied by a certain amount of competition, and vice versa (Van de Vliert, 1999). Hypothesis 4: High levels of goal interdependence will lead to an increase in competitive conflict managing style at time 2. In their analytical dimension, cultural patterns capture the relative importance people accord to personal interests and to shared pursuits (Wagner, 1995).
In collectivist patterns self-definition is consistent with cooperative behaviour, and the degree to which goal interdependence is perceived by individuals will influence cooperation in teams.
Hypothesis 5: The effect of collectivist patterns on cooperation will be higher with high levels of goal interdependence than with low levels of goal interdependence.
As mentioned above, high individualist orientations lead to higher levels of competitive behaviour. Hypothesis 6: The effect of individualist patterns on competition will be higher with low levels of goal interdependence than with high levels of goal interdependence. Two hundred and thirty two shift process employees (forming 26 work teams) in a cooperative automotive firm took part in the study. Team-based working had just started when the instruments were administrated at time 1, and had been developing throughout a year when the repeated measures were collected at time 2; thus data were collected at two times, one year apart. The new teamwork-based system was implemented in a cooperative firm, part of the traditional Mondragón Corporate Cooperatives in the Basque Country (North of Spain). Prior to the introduction of the new teamwork-based system in the organization, workers were organized in large groups characterized by the following stages: first, a definition of the work based in individual rather than in group criteria. With the implementation of the teamwork system, new communication and decision processes were established following a well-defined methodology. The scale for measuring conflict management styles was adapted from the «Management of Differences Exercise» (MODE, by Thomas & Kilmann, 1974). Means, standard deviations, Cronbach’s alphas, Pearson product-moment correlations, and the statistical significance tests (Student’s t-s) of the differences between means of time 1 and 2 of the study variables are presented in table 1.
The Student t-s showed a statistically significant reduction of both collectivist patterns at time 2 and an increment of the vertical individualism pattern. The results of the multilevel regression analyses taking cooperation as criterion variable are given in table 2.
In model 3 the interaction terms between cultural patterns and goal interdependence were added to the previous model. The results of the multilevel regression analyses taking competition as criterion variable are given in table 3. In this study we have used a multilevel regression analysis to predict cooperative and competitive styles on the basis of cultural pattern (Triandis, 1995) and goal interdependence (Campion et al., 1993) approaches. Hypothesis 3 proposed that goal interdependence would lead to higher levels of cooperation at times 1 and 2. Significant interactions were predicted for vertical-horizontal collectivist and individualist cultural patterns with goal interdependence, taking cooperative and competitive styles as criterion variables. However, contrary to our expectations, an interaction was observed between VI and goal interdependence at time 2. In conclusion, cultural patterns and goal interdependence have showed an important effect on conflict management styles. In the light of these results, future research should focus on the associations between different types of conflicts and the changing conception of cooperation in team-based working organizations.
This study contributes to work and organizational psychology literature in at least three ways. Sincere thanks to Professor Sabino Ayestarán for his helpful suggestions with early drafts of this manuscript. October 25, 2011 by Sandy Langelier Leave a Comment On September 20th, Katherine Dickson and her family gave 4th graders from Roscoe, Highland, and Blackwell, the opportunity to participate in HMI’s Kids On the Land program at their 69 Ranch near Maryneal, Texas. Vertical-horizontal, individualism-collectivism cultural patterns were used as predictive variables.
During the last 60 years many organizational psychology theorists have offered comprehensive models for the study of dimensions of teamwork (for a review see Yeatts & Hyten, 1998).
This study aims to advance our knowledge of work and cultural psychology from a hitherto unexplored starting point. As the association between personal and group goals may define the best suited strategy for managing conflict, we also explore whether goal interdependence moderates the relationship between cultural patterns and conflict management styles. For example, political philosophers analysed the nature of the relationship between the individual and the state. These styles try to maximize results for both parts in a conflict, using cooperation, avoidance or submission behaviours.
The exact content and structure of the inner self may differ considerably from the broader concept of national culture. When individual and group goals appear together they increase motivational outcomes (Mitchell & Silver, 1990). Thus, team-based working can be expected to reduce the natural resistance of individualists to team or collective work and the resistance of collectivists to self-management. New communication and decision making processes were created which required higher individual reflexivity (West, 1996).
To a certain degree, individuals have an interest in defending their own opinions and goals; this in turn enriches creativity and leads to effective solutions to conflicts. In situations where conflict is present, collectivist patterns will look out for their group’s interests, whereas individualists will accord more importance to personal interests. Collectivists have individual goals that are compatible with the goals of their in-groups, and when a conflict emerges they cooperate by prioritizing the in-group’s goals (Triandis, 1995).
If a conflict between personal and group goals emerges (low goal interdependence) individualists will naturally give priority to their personal goals, using competitive behaviour (Schwartz, 1990). The age distribution of participants was 5% under 20 years, 54% between 20 and 30 years, 26% between 31 and 40 years, and 15% over 40.
This cooperative operates in the automotive sector and produces aluminium rims supplying car manufacturers locally and in different countries.
First, an important redistribution of workers took place, requiring every team to have a small number of workers (5 to 9).
In order to avoid some of the questionnaire’s main psychometric limitations (Van de Vliert, 1999), the statements covered by the 5 conflict management styles were turned into a 6-point Likert scale. Intercorrelations between variables were generally low or average between cooperation and collectivist patterns and between competition and individualistic patterns. It must be pointed out that, at time 1, the group level variance was close to zero, so executing a regression analysis over the total sample of workers, ignoring team membership, would have been appropriate. The fixed coefficient for this variable was not statistically significant neither at time 1 nor at time 2. Our predictions in hypothesis 1 and 2 were fully confirmed: collectivist profiles led to cooperative style at both times (at baseline and after one year) whereas individualist profiles led to an increase in competitive style. However, we cannot sustain that goal interdependence predicts competitive conflict managing style on the basis of a teamwork differentiation process.



However, only the vertical types of each pattern interacted with goal interdependence, suggesting that the effect of VC on cooperation increased when high levels of goal interdependence are present. The effect of VI on competition increased when goal interdependence moved from low to high values. First, group level variance components showed high standard errors, which compels us to be cautious when interpreting the percentage of the reduction in this variance, especially in models taking competition as criterion variable. Goal interdependence is a fundamental aspect in teams, and interacts with vertical types of collectivism and individualism. Moreover, though the longitudinal nature of this study improves on other well-known models based on cross-sectional designs, the individualization process apparently activated by team-based work in organizations may need a longer period of analysis. This research has been possible, in part, thanks to a post-doctoral grant conceded by the Basque Government for research training. Students began the day by creating a timeline of historical events of Nolan County and the Rolling Plains eco-region. If you’d like to find out how you can implement Kids on the Land in your area, please can contact us or download our free program guides. It was predicted that goal interdependence would moderate the relationship between cultural patterns and conflict management styles. Los cuatro patrones culturales de individualismo-colectivismo, horizontal-vertical, fueron considerados como variables predictoras. In addition to other dimensions, some models have focused on tasks and socio-emotional needs, job-enriching activities, team reflexivity and work team characteristics (Salas, Stagl, & Burke, 2004). We focus on the relationship between intra-organizational cultural value orientation and goal interdependence in predicting conflict management styles. In cultural psychology, the strongest basis for the development and understanding of individualism and collectivism has come from sociologists and anthropologists (Kluckholm, 1956). Moreover, research has found evidence relating the collectivist orientation in work teams to cooperative behaviour (Eby & Dobbins, 1996). Several forms of the phenomenon have been examined in the literature, including reward and feedback interdependence. Goal setting strategies and equal reward systems tend to enhance cooperation in teams (Gordon, Welch, Offringa, & Katz, 2000). It has been widely argued that teams enhance their organizational effectiveness by increasing cooperative behaviour.
In this context, awareness of goal interdependence may reduce the fear of competition, allowing the use of a combination of competitive and cooperative behaviour after a period of time of successful teamworking. The presence of a mix of cooperative and competitive motives in teams helps to reduce negative behaviours such as free riding and social loafing (Rafferty & Tapsell, 2001). Therefore, the analysis of cultural patterns requires consideration of personal and group interests and goals.
As time goes by and team-based working becomes stabilized, the team interdependent context will encourage individuals to increase their perception of interdependence at work, showing an effect on their awareness of goal interdependence.
We chose a cooperative setting for this research because cooperatives represent a type of culture grounded on social values that may be challenged by the increasing competitive market as well as by the use of new working systems like work teams. Third, workers had few opportunities for participation and self-management as well as reduced possibilities of work-related-interactions. Second, each team had a weekly meeting to discuss work-related problems and decision-making.
In this way, the uncertainty associated with the hesitant respondent was reduced (Andrich, Jong, & Sheridan, 1997).
Taking cooperation (see table 2) and competition (see table 3) as criterion variables, we tested three different models one month (time 1) and one year (time 2) after starting-up with a new team work based system. The small standard errors of the two coefficients allow us to regard them as reliable estimates of their corresponding effects. However, at time 2, after a year of team-based working, the fixed coefficient for goal interdependence showed a positive influence on cooperation (z= 2.78). However, at time 2, there was a statistically significant interaction between VC and goal interdependence (z= 2.69).
Anyway, we decided to use multilevel analysis because we expected to find a higher intergroup variability in competition at time 2 than at time 1, which makes it suitable to use multilevel analysis approach.
However, the sign of the coefficient changed from positive at time 1 to negative at time 2. Probably, at time 1, as work teams had only recently been formed, team members had not had enough time to interact with each other to strongly associate goal interdependence with cooperation.
If team-based working can be expected to reduce the natural resistance of collectivists to self-management, it should do so under high levels of autonomy.
As the association between team and personal goals is reinforced and cooperative strategies fulfil both goals, high VC individuals seem to cooperate more with high levels of goal interdependence. While this result appears to disprove hypothesis 6, it is in line with theories explaining the joint use of cooperative and competitive behaviours in high interdependence contexts (Van de Vliert, 1999) and reinforces the argument that associates goal interdependence with competitive behaviour through the activation of an individualization process.
Second, the cross-validation of the current findings with larger samples is recommendable as the small number of second level units did not allow us to search for random relationships (slopes) across teams. Value orientation in teams plays a clear role in predicting conflict management styles in teams and, in parallel, teams tend to highlight the importance of both individuals and groups inside the organization, favouring the joint use of both competitive and cooperative conflict managing styles. Second, it expands on the scarce evidence on the interactive effects between cultural patterns and goal interdependence on conflict management styles from an intra-organizational perspective.
Efectos de los equipos de trabajo autogestionados (EQTA) y de trabajo individual sobre características grupales e individuales. Formación de equipos de trabajo, conductas de manejo de conflicto y cambio cultural en las organizaciones. Relations between work group characteristics and effectiveness: Implications for designing effective work groups. The complexity of social outcomes from cooperative, competitive and individualistic reward systems. How Task and person conflict shape the role of positive interdependence in management teams. The impact of cultural values on employee resistance to teams: Toward a model of globalized self-managing work team effectiveness. Individual and group goals when workers are interdependent: Effects on task strategies and performance. Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Self-Managed Work Teams and manufacturing strategies: Cultural influences in the search for team effectiveness and competitive advantage. Horizontal and vertical dimensions of individualism and collectivism: A theoretical measurement refinement.
Because of the hierarchically nested data structure, a Multilevel Analysis approach was used. Conflict management behaviour has become an essential concept in work and organizational psychology (Wagner, 1995). Cross-cultural studies have found differences in behaviour between individualists and collectivists. Vertical Collectivists (VC) perceive themselves as different from each other, and accept disparities between in-group members. Vertical Individualists (VI) postulate an autonomous self but see each other as different; inequalities are expected.
Individualist cultures, on the other hand, are more inclined to utilize distributive styles to deal with conflict, that is, competitive behaviour aimed at maximizing the results of one of the parties to the detriment of the other (Leung, 1997).
Goal interdependence, defined as a situation in which members of a group share common goals, is one of the most widely studied forms (Yeatts & Hyten, 1998). The establishment of group goals plus individual goals promotes cooperation in groups and has a beneficial effect on motivational aspects of members’ behaviour, increasing the positive goal interdependence perception among group members (Weldom & Weingart, 1993).
Similarly, the responsibility for decision-making and the existence of opportunities for participation aid cooperation in teams. The actual need for personal knowledge specialization and for individual contributions in the search for excellence and innovation in work teams, may activate a process of differentiation characterized by a reduction of resistance to individual autonomy and by an enhancement of the importance given to each person’s contribution to work.
In this regard, both cooperative and competitive individual level goals will contribute to group effectiveness as long as the individual goals can be expected to facilitate, rather than impede, the achievement of group goals. Previously established arguments about self-definition and its influence on personal orientation to manage conflict in interdependent situations, suggest the presence of interactive effects between cultural patterns and goal interdependence when predicting cooperative and competitive conflict management styles. In fact, the introduction of group-based rewards, group goals and task interdependency were among the activities that characterized the restructuring process from traditional to team-based working. Fourth, employees had no contact with either external suppliers or direct customers and the amount of work to be done was set by managers without feedback to workers.


Cooperation and competition have been regarded as core dimensions on which the rest of taxonomies relay. In each model we calculated the estimates and standard errors of fixed and random parameters, the intraclass correlation, the percentage of reduction in unexplained individual and group level variance resulting from adding new explanatory variables to the previous model, and the deviance of the model. This interaction showed that the effect of VC on cooperation increased by 0.143 points when goal interdependence moves from low to high values. At this time, the interaction term between VI and goal interdependence (z= 2.26) was statistically significant. Similarly, this study shed some light on the question of whether collectivist-individualist orientations reflect homogeneous composition of individuals in the same nation or even in the same organization (Cialdini, Wosinska, Barrett, Butner, & Gornik-Durose, 1999) showing that isomorphic principles govern attributes defining culture at national and organizational levels.
However, at time 2, after a year of team-based working, team members conceived individual and team goals as related and used more cooperative style. If team based working is created but teams and individuals are not empowered, then the expected self differentiation process may not take place. Although goal interdependence did not have a main effect on the competitive style, it moderated the relationship between VI and competition.
Third, the mainly male composed sample did not allow controlling for sex differences in conflict managing styles.
And third, it extends research from a longitudinal and multilevel perspective, which will help to further our understanding of teamwork dynamics. Horizontal and vertical collectivism increased cooperation, and horizontal and vertical individualism increased competition. In this study we consider goal interdependence both as a predictor of competitive and cooperative styles and as a moderating variable in the relationship between cultural patterns and conflict management styles. Attributes like the definition of self, goal structure and preference for personal or social interests are used to explain these differences (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002).
In this pattern individuals see the self as a part of the in-group; group identification, a sense of duty and sacrifice for the group’s demands are valued.
In this pattern, competition between individuals appears as a natural way to handle conflict. Bearing in mind that analyses of cultural and individual differences may be complementary (Triandis, 1996, p. In this individual level approach, Rabie (1994) proposes that in the conflict management process culture takes on the role of mediator, defining the values and interests at the core of the conflict.
In the same way, the awareness of goal interdependence favours the integration of personal resources in search of a common goal and thus increases cooperation (Weldon & Weingart, 1993). In positive interdependent contexts, differentiation facilitates the simultaneous pursuit of personal and team goals, allowing the combined use of cooperative behaviours (to achieve group goals) and competitive behaviours (to achieve personal goals) without threatening the team’s existence (Ayestaran, 1999). Therefore, at time 2, when taking cooperation as criterion variable, we expect the relationship between collectivist patterns and cooperation to be moderated by goal interdependence. Fifth, groups were very large (20-40 members), and had too many members to be defined as small teams. Third, these teams had direct contact, through their coordinator, with their external suppliers. The difference between the deviance statistics was used to compare the different models with respect to predictive power. This interaction showed that when goal interdependence moved from low to high values the relationship between VI and competition increased by .122 points. So with time goal interdependence becomes a stronger predictor for cooperation within teams. It may be that this individualization process takes longer to manifest itself than was initially expected.
Only when work teams had been functioning for a year, goal interdependence increased cooperation and interaction effects between goal interdependence and vertical types of individualism and collectivism were observed.
While many dimensions have been studied, Triandis (1995) highlighted the vertical and horizontal dimensions as the two most important types of individualism and collectivism.
High VI pursue distinction, high status and competition with others (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, & Gelfand, 1995). 412), and that isomorphic principles may govern attributes defining culture constructs (Chao, 2000), cross-cultural and cross-national evidence provides the key to making a parallel distinction at the individual level in a single organization (Aritzeta, Ayestaran, & Balluerka, 2003). In turn, this role strongly determines actors’ perceptions of themselves and of other actors. By definition, interdependence requires people to work together, and individuals working together need to develop cooperative strategies to be successful.
Previous to this organizational restructuring (described later on) no team structures were in place, and work was not interdependently organized. In this context, individuals defined the nature of their group, among other criteria, via elements of space location, shift and product. Fourth, they had direct contact, through their coordinator, with their external customers, who defined a negotiated amount of product to be made by each team, establishing a group goal. An example item is «My work activities on any given day are determined by my team’s goals for that day». If the initial model is a reduced version of the subsequent model, as they were the models in our study, this difference follows a c2- distribution under Ho that the extended model does not predict better than the reduced model. We therefore conclude that the higher the perceived relationship between personal and group goals, the higher the level of the cooperative style. However, the interaction between VI and goal interdependence suggests that this process may have started, though it is still in its initial stages. This decisive influence clearly affects the conflict management styles the actors use when dealing with a conflict situation. Thus, as the task itself is an issue requiring cooperation, goal interdependence should increase cooperative behaviour in teams.
From a longitudinal point of view, the learning processes inside teams help to integrate cooperation, personal autonomy and the ability to compete within the team (Russ-Eft, Preskill, & Sleezer, 1996). Thus goal interdependence could only interact with cultural patterns after a certain period of teamworking. Fifth, they had group goals previously negotiated with their managers and, depending on the level of attainment of these goals, members obtained equally-distributed rewards, which meant that the interdependence of member-team objectives increased.
As we were interested in cooperative and competitive styles, a principal component analysis with varimax rotation was carried out with the 28 items of the scale. In order to reduce multicollineality and to better interpreted results, predictive variables were centred around the overall mean. The sense of individual commitment activated by the individualization process is strongly perceived by VIs, so when goal interdependence is high it should be easier for team members to pursue personal and team goals simultaneously, and cooperative and competitive styles can be used in combination without threatening the team’s goals.
Asimismo, se produjeron efectos de interacción entre la interdependencia de objetivos y los tipos de individualismo y colectivismo verticales. For this reason, we expected that interactive effects would appear only at time 2, once members had a year’s experience working in a new teamwork structure. In this sense, tasks that were previously unconnected were observed as parts of a bigger unit. Vertical collectivism (VC) was composed by four items and «I usually sacrifice my self-interest for the benefit of my group» is an example item of this dimension. Thus, high levels of goal interdependence increase both cooperation and competition due to its moderating effect on the relationships between VC and cooperation and between VI and competition. Sixth, decisions were taken democratically (trying to find consensus) within the team and all of the individuals were expected to participate on an equal basis. It was made clear that the basis of the new teamworking structure, besides improving quality standards, was to ensure individual contribution to the decision making process, so the team could benefice from all the «minds in the team».
Cooperation was composed by nine items and defined by «integrating different points of view», «searching for common standpoints» and «finding adequate solutions for both parties in conflict». The aim of all these changes was to ensure that these teams could access sufficient information and resources in order to encourage autonomous decision taking. The competitive style was composed by four items and defined by forcing ones own standpoint.
For example, «pressing to maintain ones own position» or «searching strongly to attain ones own goals».



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