Generation Wrecked

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Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 92 (2003) 102–112


The dynamic relationship between performance feedback, trust, and conflict in groups: A longitudinal study

Randall S. Petersona,* and Kristin Jackson Behfarb


London Business School, RegentÕs Park, London NW1 4SA, UK b Cornell University, USA

Abstract Moderate task conflict has generally been associated with higher group performance, and relationship conflict associated with lower performance. Past studies have most often discussed their findings as though differences in level of intragroup conflict cause differences in group performance—rather than testing the additional possibility that reported group conflict is a reaction to feedback on past group performance. This paper explores the dynamic relationships between intragroup conflict and performance with a longitudinal design. Results from 67 groups suggest that initial performance feedback to groups can have significant consequences for future team interaction. We find evidence to suggest that, (a) negative initial group performance feedback results in later increases in both task and relationship conflict, but that (b) groups with high early intragroup trust are buffered from experiencing the worst of future relationship conflict. Ó 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Groups; Performance feedback; Task conflict; Relationship conflict

Introduction A strong and growing body of research links task and relationship conflict with performance in ongoing work teams (e.g., de Dreu, 1997; Jehn, 1995, 1997; Pelled, Eisenhardt, & Xin, 1999; Simons & Peterson, 2000). Moderate task conflict, the perception of disagreements among group members about the content of their decisions, is often linked with positive performance. On the other hand, relationship conflict or the perception of interpersonal...