The Influence of Conflict Issue Importance on the Co-occurrence of Task and Relationship Conflict in Teams


  • I would like to thank Professor Sonnentag and two anonymous reviewers for their guidance during the review process. I thank Etty Jehn for her comments on an earlier version of this paper and am grateful for the pleasant stay at the Melbourne Business School while revising this article.

Sonja Rispens, Faculty of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, Human Performance Management Group, Eindhoven University of Technology, Den Dolech 2, 5612 AZ, Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Email:


Task conflicts may be beneficial for team performance whereas relationship conflicts are associated with negative team outcomes. Because the two conflict types are typically correlated within teams, it is difficult to enhance task conflicts and simultaneously avoid relationship conflicts. This study examines how importance of the conflict issue moderates the association between task and relationship conflict. In addition, the hypothesis was tested that the interaction between task conflict and issue importance on relationship conflict is mediated by task conflict emotionality. A sample of 50 teams provided data for this study. Results confirmed the buffering effect of conflict issue importance. When teams fight about important task issues, no association between task conflict and relationship conflict was found. This effect could be partially attributed to the decrease in negative emotions present in teams during important task conflicts. The implications of this study are described and directions for future research are indicated.