Assistant Professor of International Business
Robinson College of Business
Georgia State University
Employees need many resources, especially task-related information, to fulfill their job responsibilities. But what if conflict between coworkers makes it difficult to obtain information necessary to perform one’s job? Research conducted by Sushil Nifadkar and coauthor Talya Bauer published in the Journal of Applied Psychology investigated this question, using data collected from Indian software engineers who had been with their companies for six months or less.
Conflict among coworkers is immensely harmful to work performance. It impedes information flow, negative affects the ability of all employees to do their jobs, and is especially difficult for those new to an organization who need more information than established colleagues to adjust and succeed at work.
Nifadkar and Bauer found if employees are unable to develop friendly relationships with their coworkers, their innate human need to belong to a network of supportive relationships is thwarted. Therefore, they start looking at other potential relationship targets, and the supervisor emerges as a strong candidate. To develop friendly relationships with supervisors, employees tend to attend social events where they expect to see their supervisors and can informally interact with them. Such social interactions have an unexpected outcome. Employees not only develop friendly relationships with their supervisors, but they also obtain useful work-related information they could not receive from their coworkers. This relationship resolves the information void some new employees experience because of coworker conflict, and helps them meet performance expectations.
For more information
Nifadkar, S. S., & Bauer, T. N. 2016. Breach of belongingness: Newcomer relationship conflict, information, and task-related outcomes during organizational socialization. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101: 1-13.