Mental models at work: Cognitive causes and consequences of conflict in organizations

This research investigated the reciprocal relationship between mental models of conflict and various forms of dysfunctional social relations in organizations, including experiences of task and relationship conflicts, interpersonal hostility, workplace ostracism, and abusive supervision. We conceptualize individual differences in conflict construals as reflecting variation in people’s belief structures about conflict and explore how different elements in people’s associative networks—in particular, their beliefs about their best and worst strategy in conflict—relate to their personality, shape their experiences of workplace conflict, and influence others’ behavioral intentions toward them. Five studies using a variety of methods (including cross-sectional surveys, a 12-week longitudinal diary study, and an experiment) show that the best strategy beliefs relate in theoretically meaningful ways to individuals’ personality, shape social interactions and relationships significantly more than the worst strategy beliefs, and are updated over time as a result of individuals’ ongoing experiences of conflict.