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Abstract

Past research has revealed that team effectiveness and satisfaction suffer when teams experience relationship conflict—conflict related to interpersonal issues, political norms and values, and personal taste. This study examined how teams should respond to these conflicts. Three types of conflict responses were studied: collaborating responses, contending responses, and avoiding responses. A field study involving a heterogeneous sample of teams performing complex, non-routine task showed that collaborating and contending responses to relationship conflict negatively relate to team functioning (i.e., voice, compliance, helping behavior) and overall team effectiveness, while avoiding responses were associated with high team functioning and effectiveness. It is suggested that collaborating and contending responses to relationship conflict distract team members from their tasks, while avoiding responses appear more functional in that they allow team members to pursue task performance. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.