اثرات جو ارتباطات، مکانیزم کنترل و ارتباطات در رفتار حل تعارض و نتایج عملکرد
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|18831||2007||18 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Journal of Retailing, Volume 83, Issue 3, August 2007, Pages 279–296
In this two-year study we develop and test a comprehensive model of conflict management. The conceptual model commences by demonstrating the importance of channel members’ past history of interactions as ‘setting the stage’ for members’ present ability to interact, that is, communicate, resolve conflict disputes, and ultimately, culminate in performance outcomes (financial as well as relational). In effect, we track the full gamut of conflict management related constructs in the conceptual model, from antecedent conditions to the consequents of conflict management. Empirical results, utilizing a sample of 282 retailing agents affiliated to a large North American supplier (principal) across two years, indicate strong evidence for fourteen of the eighteen hypotheses drawn from our conceptual model. Specifically, among other effects, data reveal that past history of cooperative versus conflictive orientations and bureaucratic versus trust-based governance mechanisms significantly influence the communication strategies adopted, which in turn determine whether the distributive or integrative conflict resolution behaviors are adopted. Further, the choice of conflict resolution behaviors adopted commensurately influences relational performance, and the type of communication strategy adopted influences financial performance. The paper concludes with a series of managerial implications and an agenda for future research.
Recent work within conflict management acknowledges that conflict is not only inevitable in channel relationships, but helps define the very essence of these relationships (Bradford et al., 2003 and Hagel and Brown, 2005), and that ‘the absence of conflict is not harmony, it's apathy’ (Eisenhardt et al. 1997, p. 77). In this view, conflict not only helps define a relationship, but it helps to stimulate a genuine concern or interest in preserving the relationship. It is this reasoning that allows us to safely state that channel conflict is real, it is unavoidable, and it will always be in close-working relationships (Gerzon 2006). An edifying question then becomes: How do firms “manage to cooperate and coordinate activities in the face of the ever-present potential for conflict to erupt into open disagreement” (Kolh 1987, p. 124). As Kumar and van Dissel (1996) state: “The starting point of managing conflict is to identify the sources and then to deploy proper interventions to produce functional outcomes” (p. 289). Keeping in mind that benefits attributed to close collaborative relationships can only be realized if the relationship is sustained over time, our research takes a holistic view of conflict, and investigates: (1) ‘shadow of the past’ interactions and their effect on channel members’ present ability to manage conflict, (2) interactions of members within the working relationship and the means adopted by such members to resolve their conflicts, and (3) the direct-impact present interactions, and indirect-impact past interactions, have on the overall relational quality and financial health of the working relationship. In this respect, we view well-managed conflict as a key contributing factor to successful, enduring channel relationships. Our research contributes to current conflict literature in two specific ways. First, we examine an expanded nomological network related to conflict management. While the majority of older conflict studies were based on the traditional power/dependence paradigm (e.g., Brown et al., 1983 and Gaski and Nevin, 1985), newer studies emphasize the dynamic nature of conflict ( Mannix 2003), and the importance of understanding how disputes are actively managed in the relationship, and as a consequence, how performance of the relationship is affected ( Lam and Chin, 2005 and Lu, 2006). Following Frazier's (1999) call for further work in conflict, we attempt to tie together the antecedent conditions evolving from past interactions, the conflict resolution process, and the consequents of conflicts into a unified, holistic model of channel conflict management. Secondly, we empirically evaluate the conceptual model developed using data straddling two years. While the majority of these newer conflict studies have been instrumental in shaping our knowledge on the constructive management of conflict, it is often difficult to find meaningful effects in cross-sectional, one-shot studies ( Frazier 1999). One means of overcoming such difficulties is to conduct multi-year research. In this respect too, we take a more temporal view of conflict management. This permits us to evaluate a more dynamic model of conflict, enabling us a deeper insight into causal explanations for good conflict management.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Conflict must be managed in a manner that does not disrupt the ability of the members to successfully work together and maintain a beneficial relationship from each member's perspective. This need to manage conflicts in such a manner becomes even more precarious as we learn to understand how we ‘set the stage’ for future interaction through past actions. As this study demonstrates, cooperative orientation (relationship climate) and trust-based governance (control structure) set the stage for the ability of members to share relevant information that better equips members to know each other's needs, concerns, and stands, and prepare for unexpected changes, as in task or problem direction. The results also demonstrate that conflictive orientations (relationship climate) and bureaucratic control (control structure) will restrict the ability of members to share relevant information, hence increasing the likelihood that members will withhold or distort information, or pass along information that reinforces conformity to plans, policies, rules, orders, and controls. Hence, ceteris paribus, normatively speaking, bi-lateral communication and integrative conflict resolution behaviors are to be preferred. This is reflected in our related hypotheses as well as our empirical results. However, we caution the managers that the above are not costless activities and that there is also literature that supports the usefulness and the usage of distributive conflict resolution behaviors when the problems/decisions/issues at stake are relatively simple, and not potentially relationship damaging (e.g., Dant and Schul, 1992 and Stern et al., 1996). This study did not investigate the issue characteristics associated with specific conflict episodes. Hence, sometimes it may be expedient to use unilateral communication, distributive conflict resolution behaviors, or both, given the costs of time, and so forth, associated with the alternative approaches. In sum, we encourage managers to evaluate the cost–benefit trade-offs associated with their chosen strategic moves. The final evaluation of good management skills is reflected in all members profiting from the relationship, beyond that which could be achieved through individual efforts. Important management skills involve an understanding and mastering of the conflict resolution process. As demonstrated above, certain resolution behaviors (distributive) and communication strategies (unilateral) have the potential to undermine the success of the relationship, as individual members work at cross-purposes. Conflict that reduces members’ performance potential runs counter to the very reasons for collaborating. In summary, managers must consider how they approach other members at the beginning of a dispute. The initial orientation and the control structure in place, as this study demonstrates, lay the groundwork for the type of communication that members are apt to use to resolve a dispute, all else equal. Flexible orientations that promote cooperation and sharing of relevant information promote more integrative behaviors. However, as noted above, these types of behaviors are time consuming and risky (Dant and Schul, 1992 and Stern et al., 1996). In contrast, hard-line stands are apt to be less time consuming, and promote less risky behaviors (as distributive). However, over time, they are likely to reduce members’ ability to successfully achieve goals, and create an environment of hostility and frustration (Kaufmann and Stern 1992). Hence, managers must consider where they need to be flexible, and where they might want to take a hard stand. Each carries its own costs. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with taking a hard stand and trying to gain an edge, managers need to ensure it is done fairly (Strutton and Knouse 1997). Being tough in terms of taking a definitive stand, letting other members know how you feel, and asking for concessions can be a good strategy as long as doing so does not damage the very fabric of the relationship (Strutton and Knouse 1997). In this respect, managers must understand the limits of hard-line stands. Effective relationships will build on the positive and creative energies from interacting, and reduce sources leading to dysfunctional interacting. Theoretical and methodological implications Channel members interact and perform within the context of the relationship. As the length of the relationship grows, so do the implications of past interactions on present channel member behaviors. We demonstrate the importance of being cognizant of these a priori conditions. The main goal in this study was to demonstrate theoretical justification for a more dynamic viewpoint of conflict management, one that considers antecedent events and links them to specific patterns of interactions and performance. Our findings reinforce the view that conflict must be examined as a dynamic process (Jehn and Mannix 2001), rather than as a static event, and thus, echoes the assertions of early conflict theorists (Coser, 1956 and Deutsch, 1969). Neglecting such important a priori events risk limiting marketing's understanding of conflict management and its implications. It is important to note that three of the four non-supported hypotheses (i.e., H9b, H10b, and H12b; see Table 3) involved the outcome measure of sales data net commission whereas in the case of two of these hypotheses, the analogous relational performance hypotheses (i.e., H9a and H10a) were empirically supported. This raises the issue of comparability of the difficult to obtain objective performance data with the more commonplace self-reported perceptual measures of performance. This issue of “hard metrics” versus “soft metrics” for operationalizing performance is currently the subject of heated debate among researchers, and needs to be factored-in in the interpretation of our results. In general, the correlation between perceptual and objective measures of performance has been modest (e.g., Frazier and Rody 1991 reported a correlation of 0.23); hence, the pattern of our empirical findings is not surprising. The full discussion of this issue, however, is beyond the scope of the current paper and the curious reader is referred to Ailawadi et al. (2004) for an overview of this debate. From a methodological standpoint, we demonstrate the benefits of a multi-year approach to the study of channel conflict. Although relatively rare in channel's literature, the use of multi-year data to examine conflict is critical, particularly as relationships change and evolve over time (Frazier 1999). Further, such a viewpoint captures a better picture of the implications of such changes to the ability of these relationships to effectively interact and successfully perform. Limitations First, we gathered perceptual data from only one side of the dyad. While this permitted an in-depth analysis of how past events affect how conflict unfolds at another time period from the principal's agents’ perception, it precluded an investigation into how the principal's perception might differ within the channel relationship. Investigating both the principal's agents’ and principal's perceptions would permit greater insight into the resolution process on both sides of the dyad. Secondly, our research was conducted using a single principal's agents. While this enabled us to control for unwanted extraneous factors and achieve a high degree of internal validity, it also reduces the generalizability of the study within other channels of distribution. Thirdly, even though we had intended trust and bureaucratic control mechanisms to be opposing approaches and hence serve as parallels to each other (see H3 and H4), our comparisons of bureaucratic behavior and trust lack a true parallel structure. It is impossible for us to directly address this issue without gathering new data and changing our measurement instrument. We commend the resolution of this issue to future researchers. Fourthly, we chose to focus on two key antecedents to the interaction process, relationship climate represented by two orientations (cooperative and conflictive), and control mechanisms represented by two types, formal (bureaucratic) and relational (trust-based). While these antecedents are both interesting and important in laying the groundwork for future interactions, they are not the only ones possible. Future research could consider other antecedent factors such as issue characteristics, personality, motivational, and environmental characteristics (cf. Dant and Schul 1992). Fifthly, our measure of financial performance in terms of archival sales data net commission may not have been the best measure to use to capture the performance of today's close-working relationships. Recently emergent evidence from sources like Accenture, McKinsey, CMO Council, and the AMA suggests that newer performance measures as brand equity, speed to market, customer retention/churn rates, customer acquisition/development, ROI, customer profitability may be needed to comprehensively tap the domain of financial performance. We commend this exercise as well to future scholars. Finally, even though this two-year investigation makes an important addition to the insights contributed by the erstwhile cross-sectional body of research on conflict resolution processes, we recognize that a period of more than two years may be needed to fully investigate the full process depicted in our Fig. 1, and we recommend this task to future researchers. Executive summary Even as contemporary organizations are inexorably driven toward greater strategic aligning and more cooperative, partnership-type relationships with their channel partners (as opposed to the erstwhile mindset of seeing these channel partners as potential adversaries), scholars and practitioners are quickly coming to the realization that channel conflicts are not only inevitable, but they increasingly help to define the very essence of these relationships. Moreover, increasingly organizations are coming to recognize that the absence of conflict is not harmony but apathy. Given this inescapable reality of modern channels, the significant managerial question becomes: How do firms manage to cooperate and coordinate activities in the face of the ever-present potential for conflict to erupt into open disagreement? To begin to answer this enigmatic question, we need to take a comprehensive, holistic look at how organizations approach/handle conflict management within the context of their relationship. In order to do so, we must understand and acknowledge three distinct components and their interplay: (1) ‘shadow of the past’ interactions or antecedent conditions that effect the channel members’ present ability to manage conflict, (2) interactions of members within the working relationship (i.e., nature of communications attempted) and the means adopted by such members to resolve their conflicts (i.e., various conflict resolution processes utilized), and (3) the impact of the latter interactions, and the indirect impact of the ‘shadow of the past’ interactions, on channel performance (conceptualized both in terms of the retained overall post-conflict relational quality and financial health of the working relationship). However, there does not appear to be any extant research which has examined the handling and management of conflict by channel partners so comprehensively. In this project, we empirically evaluate the entire three-component process using data straddling two years. To ensure temporal separation, we draw the measures of the ‘shadow of the past’ variables from year 1 and those of interaction processes (i.e., communications attempted and conflict resolution behaviors) and the performance measures (i.e., relational quality and financial performance) from year 2. A series of 18 hypotheses are derived and evaluated. This permits us to evaluate a more dynamic model of conflict, enabling us a deeper insight into causal explanations for good conflict management. The data provided support for fourteen of these eighteen tested hypotheses. The results demonstrate that to successfully manage conflicts, managers must consider how they approach members at the beginning of a dispute. The initial orientation (i.e., cooperative vs. conflictive) and the control structure in place (i.e., trust-based vs. bureaucratic), as this study demonstrates, lay the groundwork for the type of communication (bi-lateral vs. unilateral) and conflict behaviors (integrative vs. distributive) that members are apt to use to resolve a dispute, all else equal. Flexible orientations that promote cooperation and sharing of relevant information (bi-lateral communication) promote more integrative conflict resolution behaviors. And all else equal, relationships where bi-lateral communications and integrative resolution behaviors are preferred, members should enjoy greater rewards in terms of financial and relational performance. However, it must be noted that these types of behavior (integrative) are time consuming, more risky, and costly. In contrast, hard-line stands are apt to be less time consuming, and promote less risky behaviors (distributive). This study did not investigate the issue characteristics associated with specific conflict episodes. Hence, contingencies that warrant the use of hard-line stands still need to be investigated, and we commend this task to future researchers. However, over time, these hard-line tactics are likely to reduce members’ ability to successfully achieve goals, and create an environment of hostility and frustration. Hence, managers must consider where they need to be flexible, and where they might want to make a hard stand. Each carries its own costs. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with taking a hard stand and trying to gain an edge, managers need to ensure it is done fairly. Being tough in terms of taking a definitive stand, letting other members know how you feel, and asking for concessions can be a good strategy as long as doing so does not damage the very fabric of the relationship. In this respect, managers must understand the limits of hard-line stands. Effective relationships will build on the positive and creative energies from interactions, and reduce sources leading to dysfunctional interactions. In summary, ceteris paribus, normatively speaking, bi-lateral communication strategies and integrative conflict resolution behaviors are to be preferred over unilateral communication strategies and distributive conflict resolution behaviors. These caveats are reflected in our related hypotheses as well as our empirical results.