Relationship conflict in Chinese state-owned enterprises : the role of goal interdependence

  • Yi LIAO

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


This study empirically examines the dynamics and conditions of relationship conflict between supervisors and employees in Chinese State-Owned Enterprises. It proposes that relationship conflict has significant effects on leadership in Chinese SOEs, specifically, it threatens leader-member relationships, lowers the possibility of open-minded discussion, influences leadership effectiveness and prevents future collaboration. This study uses Deutsch’s (1973) theory of goal interdependence to understand relationship conflict between supervisors and employees. Specifically, it proposes that three types of goal interdependence affect the experience of relationship conflict and its outcomes. Cooperative goals compare to competitive and independent goals can help reduce relationship conflict between supervisors and employees and in turn lead to quality relationships, open-minded discussions, leader effectiveness, and confidence in future collaboration.

A total of 103 face-to-face interviews were conducted in Nanjing and Guangzhou in mainland China, with all the participants from Chinese State-Owned Enterprises. Participants were asked to describe a specific incident in which they engaged in relationship conflict with their supervisors. Details of the incidents including the setting, what occurred, the reasons, and the consequences were also recorded during the interview. Participants also rated specific questions on 7-point Likert-type scale based on the recalled incidents. Results of structural equation modeling and other analyses support the hypotheses and provide statistical evidence to the proposed theoretical model that goal interdependence affects relationship conflict that influence several leadership constructs, named leader-member relationship, open-minded discussion, leadership effectiveness, and future collaboration. The model and the findings also help to broaden understanding of dynamics of relationship conflict and suggest ways it can be alleviated in order to strengthen organizational leadership.
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Management
SupervisorDean William TJOSVOLD (Supervisor)

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