Conceptions of Conflict in Organizational Conflict Research: Toward Critical Reflexivity

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Diverse and often unacknowledged assumptions underlie organizational conflict research. In this essay, we identify distinct ways of conceptualizing conflict in the theoretical domain of organizational conflict with the aim of setting a new critical agenda for reflexivity in conflict research. In doing so, we first apply a genealogical approach to study conceptions of conflict, and we find that three distinct and essentially contested conceptions frame studies of conflict at work. Second, we employ two empirical examples of conflict to illustrate how organizational conflict research can benefit from a more reflexive approach and advance our understanding of conflict. In this essay, we emphasize how philosophical and political assumptions about conflict frame knowledge production within the field and we encourage future theory development to build on different notions of conflict to become better at coping with the complex and dynamic nature of conflict.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)166-179
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Published online: 29. June 2017


  • Organizational conflict
  • Conflict Management
  • Philosophy of science
  • Reflexivity
  • Theorizing

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