Companies can lose time over conflicts: an analysis of internal indirect conflict costs

    Phyllis Dirrler   Affiliation
    ; Szilárd Podruzsik   Affiliation


Consequences of conflict are widely researched qualitatively, but quantitative data on the costs of conflict are lacking. This study aims to explore conflict costs by categorizing and testing them and providing preliminary quantitative data. The focus lies on internal indirect conflict costs, which are measured in terms of lost time. This research is based on self-reports of 675 survey participants, who evaluated the amount of time they spent on internal indirect conflict costs of a personal conflict. The costs are analysed in form of their explanatory power, as well as the extent to which they are affected by conflict duration and strength. All identified internal indirect conflict costs were positively correlated. The duration and intensity of the conflict affect the amount of time wasted, meaning that groups with shorter duration or weaker intensity differ from higher groups. The results indicate that conflict costs lead to remarkable costs for organizations. To remain competitive, managers need to balance the opportunities and difficulties of conflicts and carefully manage their costs. This study contributes to the unexplored research area of conflict costs and is one of the first research findings to scientifically analyse the topic.

Keyword : conflict costs, conflict duration, conflict strength, conflict, internal indirect conflict costs, lost time

How to Cite
Dirrler, P., & Podruzsik, S. (2022). Companies can lose time over conflicts: an analysis of internal indirect conflict costs. Business: Theory and Practice, 23(2), 288–301.
Published in Issue
Sep 1, 2022
Abstract Views
PDF Downloads
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Andersson, L., & Pearson, C. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452–471.

Audi, M., Bauernfeind, B., Feichtner, E., Kerntke, W., Seidel, U. M., Renger, D., Wagner, G., & Wahler, M. (2009). Konfliktkostenstudie. Die Kosten von Reibungsverlusten in Industrieunternehmen. KPMG.

Benitez, M., Medina, F. J., & Munduate, L. (2018). Buffering relationship conflict consequences in teams working in real organizations. International Journal of Conflict Management, 29(2), 279–297.

Bettenhausen, K., & Murnighan, K. J. (1985). The emergence of norms in competitive decision-making groups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30(3), 350–372.

Brockman, J. L. (2014). Interpersonal conflict in construction: Cost, cause and consequence. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 140(2).

Brosschot, J. F., Gerin, W., & Thayer, J. F. (2006). The perspective cognition hypothesis: A review of worry, prolonged stress-related physiological activation, and health. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60(2), 113–124.

Buss, H. (2011). Controlling conflict costs: The business case of conflict management. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association, 4(1), 54–62.

Canada Pension Plan. (2008). CPP global human capital report: Workplace conflict and how business can harness it thrive.

Canary, D. J., Cupach, W. R., & Serpe, R. T. (2001). A competence-based approach to examining interpersonal conflict: Test of a longitudinal model. Communication Research, 28(1), 79–104.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. (2011). Conflict management. Survey report. CIPD.

Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Erlbaum.

Conbere, J. (2000). Designing conflict management systems to resolve workplace conflicts. Journal of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Employment, 2(3), 30–36.

Dana, D. (2001). Conflict resolution: Mediation tools for everyday worklife. McGraw-Hill.

De Dreu, C. K. W. (2008). The virtue and vice of workplace conflict: Food for (pessimistic) thought. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 29(1), 5–18.

De Dreu, C. K. W., & Weingart, L. R. (2003). Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 741–749.

Deutsch, M. (1969). Conflicts: Productive and destructive. Journal of Social Issues, 25(1), 7–41.

Diederich, A. (2003). Decision making under conflict: Decision time as a measure of conflict strength. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10(1), 167–176.

Freres, M. (2013). Financial costs of workplace conflict. Journal of International Ombudsman Association, 6(2), 83–94.

Greer, L., Jehn, K. A., Thatcher, S. M. B., & Mannix, E. A. (2007). The effect of trust on conflict and performance in groups split by demographic faultlines. In IACM 2007 Meeting Paper. Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Greer, L. L., Caruso, H. M., & Jehn, K. A. (2011). The bigger they are, the harder they fall: Linking team power, team conflict, and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 116(1), 116–128.

Harris, G. (2008). 'If your only tool is a hammer, any issue will look like a nail’: Building conflict resolution and mediation capacity in South African universities. Higher Education, 55, 93–101.

Illies, R., Johnson, M. D., Judge, T. A., & Keeney, J. (2011). A within-individual study of interpersonal conflict as a work stressor: Dispositional and situational moderators. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32(2), 44–64.

Insam, A., & Reimann, A. (2009). Konfliktkostenstudie: Die Kosten von Reibungsverlusten in Industrieunternehmen. KPMG, 4–70.

Ismail, K. M., Richard, O. C., & Taylor, E. C. (2012). Relationship conflict in supervisor-subordinate dyads: A subordinate perspective. International Journal of Conflict Management, 23(2), 192–218.

Jehn, K. (1997). A qualitative analysis of conflict types and dimensions in organizational groups. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(3), 530–557.

Jehn, K., & Bendersky, C. (2003). Intragroup conflict in organizations: A contingency perspective on the conflict-outcome relationship. Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 187–242.

Jehn, K. A. (1995). A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 256–282.

Katz, N. H., & Flynn, L. T. (2013). Understanding conflict management systems and strategies in the workplace: A pilot study. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 30(4), 393–410.

Kreisman, B. (2002). Insights into employee motivation, commitment and retention. Business Training Experts.

Kuriakose, V., Sreejesh, S., Heerah, J., Anusree, M. R., & Shelly, J. (2019). Process conflict and employee well-being. International Journal of Conflict Management, 30(4), 462–489.

Lebrague, R. M., Benamar, S., & Rahmani, Y. Z. (2020). Organizational conflict and its management: A theoretical analysis. Social Sciences Journal, 14(2), 218–228.

Levine, S. (1998). The many costs of conflict. In S. Levine (Ed.), Getting to resolution. Barrett-Koehler.

Lipsky, D. B., & Avgar, A. C. (2008). Toward a strategic theory of workplace conflict management. Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 24(1), 143–190.

Marineau, J. E., Hood, A. C., & Labianca, G. (2018). Multiplex conflict: Examining the effects of overrlapping task and relationship conflict on advice seeking in organizations. Journal of Business and Psychology, 33, 595–610.

Meier, L. L., Gross, S., Spector, P. E., & Semmer, N. K. (2013). Relationship and task conflict at work: Interactive short-term effects on angry mood and somatic complaints. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 18(2), 144–156.

Murtha, R. (2005). Workplace conflicts challenge businesses. Fairfield County Business Journal, 44(20), 42.

O’Neill, T. A., Allen, N. J., & Hastings, S. E. (2013). Examining the “Pros” and “Cons” of team conflict: A team-level meta-analysis of task, relationship, and process conflict. Human Performance, 26(3), 236–260.

OPP & Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. (2008). Fight, fight or face it? Celebrating the effective management of conflict at work.

Pazos, P., & Canto, A. M. (2013). The role of team preparation processes and task conflict on virtual team performance. In Proceedings of the 2013 Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conference (pp. 670–675). Springer.

Pelled, L. H., Eisenhardt, K. M., & Xin, K. R. (1999). Exploring the black box: An analysis of work group diversity, conflict and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(1), 1–28.

Pondy, L. R. (1967). Organizational conflict: Concepts and models. Administrative Science Quarterly, 12(2), 296–320.

Porath, C., & Pearson, C. (2009). How toxic colleagues corrode performance. Harvard Business Review, 87(4), 24.

Puck, J., & Pregernig, U. (2014). The effect of task conflict and cooperation on performance of teams: Are the results similar for different task types? European Management Journal, 32(6), 870–878.

Riaz, M. K., & Junaid, F. A. (2011). Types, sources, costs and consequences of workplace conflict. Asian Journal of Management Research, 2(1), 600–611.

Shaukat, R., Yousaf, A., & Sanders, K. (2017). Examining the linkages between relationship conflict, performance and turnover intentions. International Journal of Conflict Management, 28(1), 4–23.

Spaho, K. (2013). Organizational communication and conflict management. Management, 18(1), 103–118.

Statistisches Bundesamt. (2021). Gender pay gap: Durchschnittlicher Bruttoverdienst pro Stunde von Männern und Frauen in Deutschland im Jahr 2020.

Thomas, K. W., & Schmidt, W. H. (1976). A survey of managerial interests with respect to conflict. The Academy of Management Journal, 19(2), 315–318.

Toussaint, L., Luskin, F., Aberman, R., & DeLorenzo, A. (2019). Is forgiveness one of the secrets to success? Considering the costs of workplace disharmony and the benefits of teaching employees to forgive. American Journal of Health Promotion, 33(7), 1090–1093.

Tuckman, B. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63(6), 384–399.

Turner, J. R., Baker, R., & Morris, M. (2017). Complex adaptive systems: Adapting and managing teams and team conflict. In A. A. V. Boas (Ed.), Organizational conflict. IntechOpen.

Vodosek, M. (2007). Intragroup conflict as a mediator between cultural diversity and work group outcomes. International Journal of Conflict Management, 18(4), 345–375.

Vodosek, M. (2017). Cultural diversity, intragroup conflict, and group outcomes: Evidence for a mediated relationship. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2005(1).

Wang, G., Jing, R., & Klossek, A. (2007). Antecedents and management of conflict. Resolution styles of Chinese top managers in multiple rounds of cognitive and affective conflict. International Journal of Conflict Management, 18(1), 74–97.

Wit, F. R. C. de, Greer, L. L., & Jehn, K. A. (2012). The paradox of intragroup conflict: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(2), 360–390.

Woerkom, M. van, & Engen, M. L. van (2009). Learning from conflicts? The relations between task and relationship conflicts, team learning and team performance. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 18(4), 381–404.

Yousaf, A., Shaukat, R., & Umrani, W. A. (2021). Linkages between group level task conflict and individual level outcomes in non-routine technical jobs. International Journal of Conflict Management, 32(1), 158–176.