Anecdotal evidence abounds that organizations have distinct conflict cultures, or socially shared norms for how conflict should be managed. However, research to date has largely focused on conflict management styles at the individual and small group level, and has yet to examine whether organizations create socially shared and normative ways to manage conflict. In a sample of leaders and members from 92 branches of a large bank, factor analysis and aggregation analyses show that 3 conflict cultures—collaborative, dominating, and avoidant—operate at the unit level of analysis. Building on Lewin, Lippitt, and White’s (1939) classic work, we find that leaders’ own conflict management behaviors are associated with distinct unit conflict cultures. The results also demonstrate that conflict cultures have implications for macro branch-level outcomes, including branch viability (i.e., cohesion, potency, and burnout) and branch performance (i.e., creativity and customer service). A conflict culture perspective moves beyond the individual level and provides new insight into the dynamics of conflict management in organizational contexts.
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