Task conflict asymmetries: Effects on expectations and performance

Karen A. Jehn*, Frank R C De Wit, Manuela Barreto, Floor Rink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose-The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of asymmetric perceptions of task conflict (i.e. one person experiencing more conflict than the other) on the anticipated relationship with the partner, as well as subjective and objective performance. Design/methodology/approach–In a 2= 2 between-participants experimental design, we manipulated participants’ perception of task conflict (perceive task conflict vs does not perceive task conflict) and the perceptual conflict composition of their group (asymmetry vs symmetry). Participants were randomly allocated to each of the four experimental conditions. Eighty-four psychology students at a Dutch university participated (25 men and 59 women; average age= 21). Findings-Results show that when individuals realize that they have asymmetric task conflict perceptions, they have lower expectations about having a positive relationship with their partner and perform worse compared to when they have symmetric task perceptions (i.e. both experiencing either low or high levels of conflict). Originality/value-Past research on conflict has not often taken into account that individuals involved in a conflict can experience different amounts of conflict. By conducting an experimental study, in contrast to past research on conflict asymmetry, we can better understand the causal relationship between (a)symmetry of conflict and outcomes. We also provide insight into the mediating chain that examines how conflict asymmetry interferes with work processes and leads to negative work outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-191
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13-Apr-2015


  • Conflict asymmetry
  • Relationship expectations
  • Subjective and objective performance outcomes
  • Task conflict

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