Task conflict and team performance: roles of expertise disparity and functional background diversity

Eun Kyung (Elise) Lee, Wonjoon Chung, Woonki Hong (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this study is to test a contingency model in which the relationship between task conflict and team performance depends on the extent to which team members differ in their levels of expertise and functional backgrounds.

Design/methodology/approach
Data were obtained from 71 student teams that completed a semester-long entrepreneurial project.

Findings
The results support the moderating role of expertise disparity in the process through which task conflict contributes to team performance. Task conflict had a curvilinear effect (inverted-U) on team performance in teams with high expertise disparity. In contrast, in teams with low expertise disparity, the relationship between task conflict and team performance was found to be linear and positive. The moderating role of functional background diversity was not supported.

Research limitations/implications
This paper shows that the relationship between task conflict and team performance can exist in both a linear and a curvilinear fashion, and that what determines the form of the relationship has to do with a team’s diversity characteristics. The focus of future conflict research should be whether and how teams can realize the possible beneficial effects of task conflict, not whether task conflict is simply good or bad.

Practical implications
Managers may deliberately consider the differences in expertness among members when creating teams or assigning members to a team. Further, they may want to avoid extensive task conflict when a team’s expertise levels are unevenly distributed to lessen expected performance loss.

Originality/value
This study’s examination of the roles of two moderators in catalyzing the processes through which potential effects of task conflict are realized enhances the understanding of equivocal results in conflict research. The empirical evidence that this study provides informs a long-standing debate in the conflict literature – whether task conflict is functional or dysfunctional for teams – in a new, insightful way.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-683
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Expertise disparity
  • Functional background diversity
  • Performance
  • Task conflict
  • Teamwork

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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