ILR School

Conflict and its Resolution in the Changing World of Work: A Conference and Special Issue Honoring David B. Lipsky

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The study of conflict and its resolution has also been fragmented, with little integration of theoretical and empirical insights across disciplines. Research examining conflict and its resolution at the individual or group levels, for example, does not incorporate relevant findings from organizational and societal level studies, and visa-versa. Our theories need to integrate an understanding of how factors at multiple levels of analysis affect conflict, alternative approaches to conflict resolution, and related outcomes. For this conference and special issue, we are particularly interested in papers that address underexplored areas of research and that incorporate diverse disciplinary perspectives. We welcome papers that are empirical or conceptual, that include international perspectives, and that make use of a range of methodologies, including surveys, experiments, case studies, archival studies, or legal research.

Potential topic areas include, but are not limited to:

  • New and emerging conflict resolution techniques in union and nonunion settings
  • Conflict and conflict resolution practices in different national settings and their implications for theory in this area
  • The relationship between alternative work arrangements and workplace conflict and conflict management
  • The influence of new employment models on conflict and conflict resolution
  • The adoption of conflict resolution practices in small and entrepreneurial firms
  • The link between conflict resolution methods and the level and nature of conflict in organizations
  • The impact of conflict resolution practices on employee, group, organizational, and societal outcomes
  • The implications of internal conflict resolution practices for employee access to justice
  • The relationship between legal, economic, and competitive pressures and workplace conflict and its resolution
  • Explaining individual usage patterns of different conflict resolution practices
  • Advances in the field of negotiation


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 16
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    Why Don’t They Complain? The Social Determinants of Chinese Migrant Workers’ Grievance Behaviors
    Yang, Duanyi (2017-11-01)
    Using survey data from China, I examine how migrant workers respond to violations of labor law in their workplaces. The central puzzle explored is why, given apparent widespread violations, some workers choose not to pursue remedies. I find that although workers with shared local identities with their employers are more likely to work without employment contracts, they are less likely to be exposed to safety and health hazards at work and less likely to interpret problems experienced as a violation of their legal rights. This paper extends the research on grievance behavior by drawing on research from Law and Society and social networks to understand how these subjective interpretation processes and social identities outside of work influence grievance behaviors. While the empirical focus is on China, the theoretical extensions may help explain why workers in other settings fail to express grievances when confronted with workplace violations.
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    A Changing World of Workplace Conflict Resolution and Employee Voice: An Australian Perspective
    Van Gramberg, Bernadine; Teicher, Julian; Bamber, Greg J.; Cooper, Brian (2017-11-06)
    The authors contribute to dispute resolution theory and provide new insights on such important issues as employee voice, workplace disputes and employees’ intentions to quit. They conducted and analyzed a survey of managers in Australian workplaces. They apply Budd and Colvin’s (2008) path-finding dispute resolution framework to examine two research questions: first, is there a relationship between the resolution of disputes and employee voice as measured by employee perceptions of influence over decision-making? Second, is there a relationship between the resolution of workplace disputes and employees’ intentions to quit? These are important questions in view of the high costs of workplace conflict and employee turnover. The authors find that employee voice facilitates successful dispute resolution. Further, employee voice has the additional benefit of directly reducing employee turnover intentions, above and beyond its indirect effect by helping to resolve conflicts at work.
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    The Devil Is in the Details: Attorney Heterogeneity and Employment Arbitration Outcomes
    Lamare, J. Ryan (2017-11-01)
    Conventional wisdom holds that hiring a lawyer will improve outcomes for non-union employees who take individual rights complaints to arbitration. However, the limited amount of empirical scholarship into this topic has rarely accounted for the concurrent influence of employer representatives, or for the presence and effects of employee and employer attorney heterogeneity. I analyze all arbitration awards rendered within the securities industry from the implementation of its ADR program through the late-2000s, and first find that hiring an attorney benefits employees only in the rare cases that employers do not also include an agent. I then account for attorney selection into cases by limiting the analysis to only claims that involved attorneys. I use biographical records for each lawyer to explore attorney heterogeneity in education, expertise, gender, experience, and other characteristics. I examine longitudinal changes in attorney characteristics over time, and empirically test how these differences affect outcomes. I find that many employee and employer attorney characteristics vary and have grown more pronounced over time, and several of these variations shape outcomes. I conclude that although hiring an attorney may not redress power imbalances within employment arbitration, more nuanced analyses reveal that they are important to the system and certain types of lawyers can provide important benefits.
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    ADR-based Workplace Conflict Management Systems: A Case of American Exceptionalism
    Teague, Paul; Roche, William; Currie, Denise; Gormley, Tom (2017-11-01)
    [Excerpt] The diffusion of ADR-based conflict management systems is a development increasingly highlighted in the literature. Organizations are seen as putting in place multiple procedures and practices so that different varieties of workplace conflict can be effectively addressed. Just why organizations are electing to introduce these integrated bundles of innovative conflict management practices is a matter of debate, but many view the development as transforming the manner in which workplace problems are managed in modern organizations, with some even pronouncing that it amounts to the rewriting of the social contract at work (Lipsky and Seeber 2006). This paper argues that to the extent to which conflict management systems are being diffused, it is occurring mainly in the USA became the institutional context for the management of the employment relationship creates considerable incentives for the adoption of ADR-inspired conflict management innovations. Other Anglo-American countries, where it might be thought reasonable to expect a similar pattern of ADR innovation at the workplace to emerge, are not experiencing any discernible shift towards conflict management systems inside organizations. It is suggested that in the absence of institutional incentives to adopt workplace management systems, organizations are unlikely to opt for radical conflict management innovations. At the same time, drawing on research in the Irish context, it is argued that tried-and-tested conflict management practices do change over time, with an incremental and evolutionary approach adopted by some organizations to upgrade practices considered the most interesting development. The paper is organized as follows. The first section assesses why the emergence of integrated conflict management systems in organizations is considered to be a significant new development in the USA. The next section evaluates evidence and suggests that a similar pattern of workplace conflict management innovation is not occurring in other Anglo-American countries. After this evaluation, it is suggested that the institutional context in the USA creates uniquely strong incentives for organizations to adopt integrated bundles of ADR practices at the workplace - causing the emergence of conflict management systems to be a case of ‘American exceptionalism’. The following section argues that in the absence of strong institutional incentives to do so, organizations are unlikely to move radically away from established conflict management systems. The penultimate section explains that even in the presence of organizational inertia, conflict management practices seldom stay the same and uses research in the Irish context to suggest that organizations sometimes use an evolutionary approach to upgrade conflict management practices in an incremental yet continuous manner. The final section presents a number of case studies of this evolutionary approach to conflict management innovation. The conclusions bring together the arguments of the paper.
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    Conference Agenda
    Cornell University ILR School (2017-11-01)
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    Organizational Conflict Resolution and Strategic Choice: Evidence from a Survey of Fortune 1000 Companies
    Lipsky, David B.; Avgar, Ariel C.; Lamare, J. Ryan (2017-11-01)
    In this paper we develop the argument that a firm’s ADR strategies are likely to be associated with a firm’s use of one conflict resolution option or the other. More specifically, we examine whether a firm’s use of either arbitration or mediation is a function of (1) the extent to which the use of either of these dispute resolution processes aligns with the goals and objectives management is seeking to advance, and (2) the extent of the firm’s commitment to the use of these practices. We expect to find that an organization’s use of either mediation or arbitration may be governed by different underlying strategic objectives as well as the firm’s broader commitment to ADR. In what follows, we further develop this strategic choice argument.
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    Organizational Innovators: A Study of Workplace Intra-Employee Conflict Management Strategies
    Nash, David; Hann, Deborah (2017-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Whilst the issue of intra-employee conflict is clearly one that impacts today’s organization, it is less clear how this conflict is addressed and resolved in contemporary workplaces. Previous research has often treated workplace conflict as homogeonous, but it is important that different conflicts should be treated separately (Jehn and Bendersky 2003). The purpose of this article is to contribute to our understanding of the management of conflict in the workplace by examining this under-researched form of conflict and perhaps more importantly how organizations address this prevalent form of workplace dispute, if they do so at all. Soecifically, by examining the diffusion of policies that address intra-employee conflict within Wales we aim to reveal the antecedents of this emerging form of conflict resolution. The article also considers which type of policies these organizations are using to address this form of conflict. A review of intra-employee conflict resolution mechanisms is important because whilst there is an understanding of the nature of intra-employee conflict itself and also the impact of such conflict on workplace practices, there is little systematic knowledge of the manner in which such conflict is addressed in organizations. Thus, the following research questions are considered: Who are the firms which introduce intra-employee of conflict management policies? What practices are being used to address intra-employee conflict? The article finds that there are particular types of firms often with a distinctive HR approach, which can be considered ‘organizational innovators’ in this area. The research also observes that organizations seem to adopt policies to address intra-employee conflict to fit in with a broader high performance or even unitarist approach to the management of HR.
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    Third-Party Intervention and the Preservation of Bargaining Relationships
    Weinberg, Bradley R. (2017-11-01)
    This article uses longitudinal contact data to examine if third-party dispute resolution procedures available in Ontario improve the health of bargaining relationships and contribute to their preservation. It performs this in two manners: (1) using survival analysis to see how the mechanisms correlate with the likelihood of relationship dissolution and (2) using dynamic panel models to observe their state dependence. The latter is undertaken to see if third-party intervention pushes the parties to settle subsequent agreements earlier in the process – a finding that would reveal another aspect of relationship preservation if those earlier interventions are shown to correlate with lower likelihoods of dissolution. While the survival analysis does show that the earlier procedures in the dispute resolution process associate with lower likelihoods of dissolution than later ones, the dynamic panel model estimates do not indicate that third-party intervention induces voluntary or even earlier settlements in subsequent rounds of bargaining.
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    Labor Relations Conflict in the Workplace: Scale Development, Consequences and Solutions
    Zhou, Lulu; Xi, Meng; Zhang, Xufan; Zhao, Shuming (2017-11-01)
    Because the goals of employers and employees are often incompatible, conflicts are inevitable and an essential part of organizational life. The three studies reported in this paper addressed the issues of identifying the dimensions of workplace conflicts within organizations, exploring the consequences of conflicts, and finding appropriate methods of conflict resolution. The first study identified and developed three dimensions of labor relations conflict, including interest-based, rights-based, and emotion-based conflicts. The second study explored two sets of individual outcomes of labor relations conflicts and found labor relations conflicts had a negative effect on employee job satisfaction and affective commitment and positive effects on employee turnover intention and counterproductive work behavior. The third study tested the effectiveness of partnership practices as an alternative method of resolving labor relations conflicts. Suggestions are offered for future research on the labor relations conflict dimensions as well as its outcomes and solutions introduced in these studies.
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    Do it Right or Not at All: A Longitudinal Evaluation of a Conflict Managment System Implementation
    Dunford, Benjamin B.; Mumford, Kevin J.; Boss, R. Wayne; Boss, Alan D.; Boss, David S. (2017-11-01)
    We analyzed an eight-year multi-source longitudinal data set that followed a healthcare system in the Eastern United States as it implemented a major conflict management initiative to encourage line managers to consistently perform Personal Management Interviews (or PMIs) with their employees. PMIs are interviews held between two individuals, designed to prevent or quickly resolve interpersonal problems before they escalate to formal grievances. This initiative provided us a unique opportunity to empirically test key predictions of Integrated Conflict Management System (or ICMS) theory. Analyzing survey and personnel file data from 5,449 individuals from 2003 to 2010, we found that employees whose managers provided high-quality interviews perceived significantly higher participative work climates and had lower turnover rates. However, retention was worse when managers provided poor-quality interviews than when they conducted no interviews at all. Together these findings highlight the critical role that line mangers play in the success of conflict management systems.