Leadership Institute


Date of this Version



Published in International Journal of Conflict Management 21:1 (2010), pp. 20–43; doi: 10.1108110444061011016614 Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Used by permission.


Purpose — The current study aims to address the relationship between trust, team identification, and team conflict. Specifically, it aims to examine whether trust in peers mediates the relationship between team identification and team conflict.
Design/methodology/approach — This is an empirical paper based on two field studies. In Study 1, 241 employees in a US Fortune 500 company distributed in various and mostly R&D teams were surveyed. In Study 2,205 employees in a health care organization in the Midwest were surveyed.
Findings — Team identification was related to lower levels of both task conflict and relationship conflict. This relationship, however, is mediated by the employees’ trust in their peers.
Research limitations/implications — This finding addresses concerns about the mechanisms by which employee attitudes contribute to work behaviors.
Practical implications — This study highlights the importance of cultivating team members’ sense of “we” rather than a sense of “I” in the team context, reinforcing the crucial role of trust in organizational context. Further, by shedding light on the process by which teams come into conflict, our results suggest a means by which managers and organizations can work towards creating optimal levels of conflict in their work teams.
Originality/value —As far as it is known, this is the first field study that has examined the mediating role of trust between team identity and team conflict.