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A Helping Hand? The Moderating Role of Leaders' Conflict Management Behavior on the Conflict–Stress Relationship of Employees


Moritz Römer is a Ph.D. student at the University of Leuven in Leuven, Belgium, and a consultant/trainer at Schouten and Nelissen, a consultancy and training firm in Zaltbommel, the Netherlands. His e-mail address is

Sonja Rispens is an assistant professor of organizational psychology at the Technical University Eindhoven in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Her e-mail address is

Ellen Giebels is a professor of psychology in conflict and safety at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands. Her e-mail address is

Martin C. Euwema is a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Leuven. His e-mail address is


Interpersonal conflict between colleagues within organizations negatively affects employee well-being (e.g., stress). It is unclear how leaders' third-party conflict management behaviors influence the relationship between employee conflict and well-being. In this study, we examine the effects of leaders' perceived conflict management behaviors on the relationship between relationship, task, and process conflicts and the conflict-related stress (as a measure of well-being) that employees experience. We tested our expectations using a survey of 145 employees of an insurance company in the Netherlands. The results confirmed our expectations that the perception that leaders engaged in third-party forcing behavior and avoiding behavior amplified the effects of conflict on conflict-related stress. Furthermore, we found that leaders' third-party problem-solving behavior had a buffering effect on the association between relationship conflict and conflict-related stress. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.