Abstract for: Using System Dynamics to understand Workplace Conflict

This study uses a systemic approach to explore the dynamics of learning and negative emotion in workplace intraorganisational conflict. Our dynamic hypothesis was that the endogenous dynamics between the level of intraorganisational conflict and the levels of learning and negative emotion, which are accumulating in the organisation as by-products of conflict, are causing the conflict level to oscillate. A review by Cronin & Berzukova (2006) identified two problematic, undesired patterns of intraorganisational conflict development over time (Group Disintegration, Groupthink) and one desired pattern of moderate conflict level (Cohesion and Resilience), which comprised our Reference Mode. A Causal Loop Diagram and a quantified, Stock and Flow model were built using Stella Architect software, to test our hypothesis. Direct and Indirect structure tests as well as behaviour tests and sensitivity analysis were performed in order to validate, calibrate and increase confidence in the model. After calibration, the base run of our model reproduced the reference mode of the 2 undesired behaviour patterns. Our results are in line with the view of Cronin & Berzukova (2006) that as conflict builds up, it causes negative emotion as well as learning to increase through two basic mechanisms: the Conflict-Learning Loop and the Conflict-Negative Feelings Loop.