Faculty research on intragroup conflict published by ASQ, a top-ranked journal

NIU Associate Professor Amanda Ferguson co-wrote a research study that has been accepted at “A” level journal Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ). Ferguson is a faculty member in the Department of Management at the NIU College of Business. ASQ is an elite, top-ranked, quarterly, peer-reviewed journal that publishes the best theoretical and empirical papers on organizational studies.

The article is entitled, “Things are not always what they seem: The origins and evolution of intragroup conflict.” The research paper is now posted in its entirety on the “online first” section of the ASQ website.

An overview of their work is also provided by the authors in their key findings for managers in organizations and for media, along with an article abstract. The key findings and abstract follow, as reposted from the ASQ website.

Highlights for Managers and Media

Companies throughout the world use teams to accomplish work tasks, but one of the major challenges of teams is dealing with team conflict. In three studies, we discovered that fewer than 30% of teams actually experience widespread conflict throughout the team.

However, we identified three different yet more common sources of conflict in teams: Conflict driven by individuals (e.g., the bad apple in the team), dyads (e.g., disagreements between two people), or subgroups (e.g., schisms that can feel like ‘us versus them’).

We found that not all of these sources of conflict are bad for teams. For example, dyadic conflict about how teams accomplish their tasks can be beneficial for a team’s performance – but when people perceive widespread disagreement in their teams, team performance suffers.

Finally, our research found that conflict typically stays where it originates in a team, and this has serious implications for the individuals in the teams—as well as for managers seeking to identify and effectively manage team conflict.


Teams scholars have historically conceptualized and measured intragroup conflict at the team level. However, emerging evidence suggests that perceptions of intragroup conflict are oftentimes not uniform, shared, or static. These findings suggest important questions about the microfoundations of intragroup conflict: Where does conflict within teams originate? And how does it evolve over time? We address these and other questions in three abductive studies. We consider four origination points: an individual, dyad, subgroup, or team, and three evolutionary trajectories: conflict continuity, contagion, and concentration. Study 1, a qualitative study of narrative accounts, and Study 2, a longitudinal social networks study of student teams, reveal that fewer than 30 percent of teams experience team-level conflict. Instead, conflict more commonly originates and persists at individual, dyadic, or subgroup levels. Study 2 further demonstrates traditional psychometric intragroup conflict scales mask the existence of these various origins and trajectories of conflict. Study 3, a field study of manufacturing teams, reveals individual and dyadic task conflict origins positively predict team performance, whereas traditional intragroup task conflict measures negatively predict team performance. The results raise serious concerns about current methods and theory in team conflict literature and suggest that researchers must go beyond team-level conceptualizations of conflict.


Shah, P., Peterson, R. S., Jones, S., & Ferguson, A. J.* (In Press). Things are not always what they seem: The origins and evolution of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly. *equal authorship; listed in reverse alphabetical order


reposted from ASQ; M. De Jean, Director of Marketing, NIU Business

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