In the current review we consider theory and research involving task, relationship, and process conflict. We examine relationships with team performance and innovation with an eye toward recent meta-analytic findings. We then review recent research investigating the interplay of team conflict types in the form of team conflict profiles. We advance the Team Conflict Dynamics Model to connect conflict profiles with key variables in the nomological net: psychological safety, conflict management, and team performance. This model considers dynamics by examining conflict transformations over time, reciprocal effects of conflict management processes, and negative feedback loops. Moreover, the model incorporates contextual features involving team design and the organizational environment. This review is needed in order to integrate recent meta-analytic findings, conflict profiles, conflict dynamics, and contextual factors into a parsimonious model useful for guiding future research and practice.
Organizational work teams are by definition comprised of members that work interdependently and count on one another to make task-, goal-, and outcome-related progress (Kozlowski & Ilgen, 2006). Given that conflict is inevitable wherever interdependencies occur (Deutsch, 1949), conflict in teamwork is a regular occurrence. Because these conflicts have powerful implications for team functioning and effectiveness (DeChurch, Mesmer-Magnus, & Doty, 2013), it is not surprising that there is a long history of research and ongoing work on this topic (see reviews by Korsgaard, Jeong, Mahony, & Pitariu, 2008; Loughry & Amason, 2014). The current work moves beyond the existing narrative reviews and is needed for several reasons. First, although Korsgaard et al. (2008) provided a review on the multilevel dynamics of team conflict, there have been a number of important recent developments. These largely involve new meta-analyses that shed important light on the benefits, detriments, and contingencies of conflict. Second, Korsgaard et al.'s focus was restricted to antecedents of conflict in teams whereas our focus is on new meta-analytic evidence of conflict's consequences, namely, conflict's implications for performance and innovation. Third, reviews by Loughry and Amason (2014) and Bradley, Anderson, Baur, and Klotz (2015) focused on identifying conditions in which task conflict is most effective. We build on this by drawing from recent empirical work examining team conflict profiles, which describe more clearly the patterns of conflict that occur in teams (O'Neill, McLarnon, Hoffart, Woodley & Allen, in press). Fourth, we theoretically examine the dynamics of team conflict in order to advance research on how conflict profiles are related to other key variables over time. In this way, we further build upon existing reviews, which have called for development of theoretical models that incorporate the role of conflict dynamics given that conflict occurs across multiple episodes of interaction (e.g., Korsgaard et al., 2008). Fifth, the previous reviews do not consider team design or organizational environment factors that represent contextual features with implications for team effectiveness (Hackman, 1987). Ignoring such factors would lead to an incomplete understanding of conflict in teams (Todorova, Bear, & Weingart, 2014). Thus, this review is needed to advance a model of team conflict that captures recent scientific developments, identifies priorities for future research, and provides implications for practice.