Cooperative and competitive goal approach to conflict : accomplishments and challenges

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

391 Citations (Scopus)


Theory and research in cooperative and competitive conflict have potentially important implications for managing conflict in organisations as well as families and societies. To distinguish it from competition, conflict is defined as incompatible activities rather than as opposing interests. To the extent that protagonists emphasise their cooperative interdependence they have been found to express their various views directly, explore and consider opposing positions open-mindedly, and integrate them into new solutions that they are committed to implement. Experimental research has documented these constructive controversy dynamics and field studies have shown that they impact employee commitment, empowering leadership, innovation, quality customer service, and other vital organisational outcomes. Understanding the mediators of cooperative and competitive conflict, illuminating the processes by which protagonists conclude that their goals are predominantly cooperative or competitive, documenting the value of competitive conflict, and applying the theory in cross-cultural settings need much more theorising and research. Practical challenges include developing reliable procedures for cooperative conflict, especially in tough, intractable conflict. Cooperative conflict is far from a simple panacea but it is a viable way to deal with divisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-313
Number of pages29
JournalApplied Psychology: An International Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1998


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