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Keywords:

  • work conflict;
  • power;
  • interdependence;
  • conflict orientations

Abstract

Deutsch’s theory of conflict resolution is a vital model for understanding the fundamental dynamics of conflict and its constructive resolution. However, the original formulation of the theory assumed equal power and equal degrees of interdependence between the parties in conflict. Although subsequent research has investigated the effects of relative power and interdependence differences on negotiations and conflict, they have yet to be integrated into one model that can account for interactions between the dimensions. This article presents research investigating propositions from a new, integrated model of power, interdependence, and conflict, which extends Deutsch’s theory into situations of asymmetrical power and interdependence. First, two exploratory studies are described that set the foundation for our model. Then, an experiment is presented that induced differences in relative power and interdependence through different versions of a work conflict scenario. The findings supported our model. Different combinations of relative power (high, equal, or low), types of interdependence (cooperative, competitive, or mixed), and degrees of interdependence (high or low) led to significantly different conflict orientations—which affected perceptions, experiences, and responses to conflict. Implications for future research are discussed.