Family and Workplace Conflict Examining Metaphorical Conflict Schemas and Expressions Across Context and Sex



    1. Patrice M. Buzzanell (Ph.D., 1987, Purdue University) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Northern Illinois University.
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    1. Nancy A. Burrell (Ph.D., 1987, Michigan State University) is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
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  • The authors thank Steve Wilson, Robert McPhee, and Mike Allen for assistance on this project and appreciate the suggestions of the anonymous reviewers who challenged the authors to distinguish among cognitive conflict constructs and to extend implications of this research. The authors also acknowledge the collaborative effort in the conduct and reporting of this study.


This investigation examined 620 metaphorical conflict expressions generated by 169 participants who either were employed full-time or had previous work experience. First-order metaphorical (schema) analyses indicated that participants predominately used “conflict is impotence” schemas. No sex differences emerged in either schemas or in second-order (linguistic) analyses of metaphorical expressions. However, participants reported different schemas, depending on the conflict context, but particularly for the supervisor and departmental member contexts. The supervisor context also exhibited a pattern of linguistic choices, suggesting that male and female respondents objectified their supervisors. Finally, respondents reported greater frequency and intensity of conflicts in family contexts than in any of the work contexts.