Understanding conflict avoiding behavior in China : the role of goal interdependence and behavioral intentions

  • Lin WANG

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


It is a commonly held belief that people from collectivistic, large power distance or high-context cultures, such as China, tend to be less confrontational, which could be counter-productive in organizations. Contrary to this traditional view, this study posits that conflict avoidance can be constructive depending on the specific actions protagonists take. It adopts Deutsch’s (1973) theory of cooperation and competition to understand conflict avoiding behavior between employees and their supervisors, indicating that people’s perceptions of goal interdependence significantly influence their behavioral intentions that in turn predict their overt actions to avoid conflict. Specifically, it proposes that goal interdependence greatly affects employee behavioral intentions that lead to different avoiding behaviors that affect the important outcomes of productivity, relationship, and social respect within organizations.

A total of 110 participants from Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Shenzhen were interviewed from June 2011 to September 2011 by critical incident technique. Interviewees were first required to recall a concrete incident in which they avoided direct discussions with their supervisors when they had a disagreement. They then rated specific questions on the recalled incident using 7-point Likert-type scales. Results of the structural equation modeling and other analyses support the hypotheses and proposed theoretical model that goal interdependence affects the behavioral intentions of employees, which significantly influence employees‟ specific actions to avoid conflict, and finally determine outcomes. Research findings contribute to the literature of conflict management and also provide crucial implications for dealing with conflict avoidance in Chinese enterprises and perhaps in organizations in other countries.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Management
SupervisorDean William TJOSVOLD (Supervisor) & Shiu Ho Alfred WONG (Supervisor)

Cite this