Understanding Tension and Conflict Management Through Theoretical Triangulation

Title: Understanding Tension and Conflict Management Through Theoretical Triangulation
Authors: Qiu, Hong
Date: 2022-06-29
Embargo: 2023-01-09
Abstract: Tensions and conflicts are a regular, but complex, part of organizational life. Triangulating multiple related theories is useful in gaining deeper insights into the complexities of tension or conflict management processes in organizations. This dissertation consists of three related essays that collectively contribute to answering a common research question: How and why tensions or conflicts are experienced and managed in different organizational contexts? The focus is on how three theoretical perspectives (contingency, paradox and dialectic) can be deployed to understand tension or conflict management in different contexts. This topic is relevant for three reasons. First, recent evidence demonstrates that both tensions and conflicts have constructive potential for individual and/or organizational change. Second, conflict studies have been shifting from short-term focused resolution to long-term-oriented transformation. This trend suggests that conflict studies might benefit from tension research, which is often long-term oriented due to the persistence of organizational tensions. Third, the advancement of tension research at the organization level calls for more tension research at the individual level. This presents a good opportunity to complement conflict studies, which mainly focus on individual and team level analyses. The dissertation uses a multi-perspective framework to analyze tension or conflict management in three organizational contexts that are rich in tensions and conflicts: family businesses, innovation in government, and the entrepreneurial university. The contingency perspective features either-or thinking that stresses the importance of making either-or choices according to contingencies. The paradox perspective features both-and thinking which favours strategies that address competing demands simultaneously. The dialectic perspective involves more-than thinking that aims to transcend tensions or conflicts through third parties, reframing, or other workarounds. The study of three different contexts (family business, government, and the university) allows for a better understanding of how different contexts shape the manifestation of tensions and conflicts and influence the choice of tension and conflict management strategies. The first essay (presented in chapter 2 and co-authored with Professor Mark Freel) is based on a literature review of family-related conflicts and how these conflicts are managed in family businesses. The review illustrates how the popularity of certain conflict management strategies is associated with some unique aspects of family businesses, such as the prevalence of relationship conflicts and the relatively high emotional bonding in families. The second essay (presented in chapter 3 and co-authored with Professor Samia Chreim) uses a longitudinal case study to examine how tension management evolves regarding two tensions observed in a government innovation diffusion process: control versus resistance and competing interests among stakeholders. The study demonstrates how tension management strategies evolve from simple to complex through a mechanism of joint learning between innovators and the government. The study also finds that tensions can be leveraged strategically to move the innovation project forward. The third essay (presented in chapter 4 and co-authored with Professor Samia Chreim and Professor Mark Freel) explores how academic and non-academic staff in two Canadian universities manage the reward and resource tensions associated with entrepreneurship-related activities. The study finds that individuals' strategies in managing the reward tension influence the type of entrepreneurship-related activities they engage in, and individuals' strategies in managing the resource tension influence the scale and scope of entrepreneurship-related activities at the university level. The study also illustrates that power relations are dynamic and that the implementation of both-and strategies can help balance power relations in a tension context. Collectively, the three essays in this dissertation shed light on how organizations, teams or individuals manage tensions or conflicts in three organizational contexts featuring hybrid logics (family and business; innovation and bureaucracy; entrepreneurship and scholarship). The multi-perspective framework has proved useful as a tool for analyzing both tension and conflict management. It also helps to frame important new research questions around topics such as how constructive potential is realized, why certain management strategies are more or less popular, and how strategies evolve with different types of tension or conflict.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/43747
CollectionThèses - Embargo // Theses - Embargo