How Can Organizations Minimize Conflict in Polarized Environments ?

New research from the University of Alberta’s Alberta School of Business shows how organizations can best minimize intra-organizational conflict in environments where intractable conflict exists between groups with highly polarized and opposing views (e.g., Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East; Protestant-Catholic conflict in Ireland).  

The findings are contained in a recently published article in the Journal of Management titled, “Give Peace a Chance? How Regulatory Foci Influence Organizational Conflict Events in Intractable Conflict Environments”. The article was co-written by Angelique Slade Shantz, Associate Professor at Alberta, together with Libby Weber, an Associate Professor of Strategy at the University of California, Irvine, Geoffrey M. Kistruck, Professor of Entrepreneurship at York University’s Schulich School of Business, and Robert B. Lount, Jr., a Professor of Management and Human Resources at The Ohio State University.  

The researchers undertook a nine-month mixed-methods field experiment involving 80 newly formed business cooperatives within Northern Ghana, where ethnic, tribal, and political conflict is deeply rooted, and where cooperative members’ efforts were often hindered by fighting. The study examined whether a prevention-focused (avoiding conflict) or promotion-focused (embracing peace) framing of the behavioural expectations of cooperative members in conducting their organizational tasks would most effectively minimize verbal and physical conflict.


We found the opposite of what prior research would have suggested,” says Slade Shantz. “Our study showed that a prevention-focused framing was more effective in reducing organizational conflict within contexts of extreme conflict, because it ‘fit’ more closely with the existing framing that stemmed from the frequent and intense conflict within the broader environment.”   

“These findings have important implications for organizations everywhere, which are becoming increasingly polarizing environments,” concluded Slade Shantz.

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