Research Examines How Mindfulness Supports Constructive Conflict Management

Summary of:

Kay, A. and Skarlicki, D., “Cultivating a conflict-positive workplace: How mindfulness facilitates constructive conflict management” (2020). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Background & Theory:

In previous research studies, mindfulness has been defined as self-regulated attention on the present moment with an open, non-judgmental, and accepting attitude. These studies have suggested that mindfulness can facilitate constructive conflict management.

Cognitive reappraisal could play a role in this process. Cognitive reappraisal occurs when people shift their view of a situation and its perceived meaning before it elicits an emotional reaction in them, thereby generating a more adaptive response. This study examines the effects mindfulness has on the conflict management methods of collaboration and avoidance, as well as the mediating effect of cognitive reappraisal.

Question(s):

Research was conducted to answer the following questions:

    1. What is the relationship between mindfulness and collaboration in conflict?
    2. What is the relationship between mindfulness and conflict avoidance?
    3. What role does cognitive reappraisal play in the relationship between mindfulness, collaboration, and conflict avoidance?

Methods:

Two studies were conducted to test the relationship between mindfulness and conflict management. The first study examined the relationship between the variables at the dispositional level and used a sample of 1,006 participants. Mindfulness was measured using the 39-item Five Facets Mindfulness Questionnaire. Cognitive reappraisal was measured with a six-item sub-scale from the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire. Collaboration and conflict avoidance was measured with the Rahim Organizational Conflict Inventory – II.

The second study entailed a randomized controlled trial with one month of online mindfulness training at a healthcare organization, with active and passive control conditions and three waves of data collection. A sample of 473 participants were all randomly assigned to a mindfulness training group, an active control group, or a waitlist control group. These participants were then asked to complete surveys immediately before the training period, during the final week of the training period, and immediately after the training period. These surveys measured mindfulness, cognitive reappraisal, collaboration, and conflict avoidance using the same tests as the first study.

Results:

Results indicated that the trait of mindfulness was positively associated with collaboration and inversely related to conflict avoidance. This means that mindfulness may increase collaboration and reduce avoidance. However, it was found that these effects are attributable to more than just mindfulness.

Additionally, although cognitive reappraisal accounted for the relationship between mindfulness and collaboration, it was not a mediating factor for the relationship between mindfulness and avoidance. These results suggest that mindfulness training may help employees appraise workplace conflict through facilitating collaboration, but not necessarily in decreasing conflict avoidance.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this research, we can take away this key insight:

  • The practice and active use of mindfulness allows employees to be more collaborative in addressing workplace conflict.

Final Takeaways

For Consultants: Mindfulness can be a key component in solving conflicts. Even something as simple as the implementation of mindfulness practices can help employees better deal with conflict in the workplace.

For Everyone: If you are living with a lot of workplace conflict, practicing mindfulness can be helpful for taking collaborative steps towards mutually acceptable solutions.