Let's Look at This Another Way: How Supervisors Can Help Subordinates Manage the Threat of Relationship Conflict

Academic Article


  • A central part of one’s social existence is helping others manage their daily emotional experiences. For organizational leaders, managing the emotions of subordinates is seen by many to be a key leadership behavior and is often used as an indicator of leader effectiveness. However, the practical applications of leader interpersonal emotion management (IEM) strategies in organizations are not well understood. Using research on group relationship conflict as a backdrop, we tested the effectiveness of two prominent IEM strategies (cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression) as supervisory conflict-management tools. Outlining our arguments through a threat framework, in Study 1 we examined how emotion management strategies moderate the indirect effects of group relationship conflict on individual-level attitudes and behaviors through group processes. Our sample for this field study consisted of both supervisors (n = 116) and employees (n = 489) in a Fortune 1000 regional energy company. In Study 2 we used an experimental approach to bolster support for our theoretical framework by examining the effect of supervisory IEM strategies on perspective taking—a key element of threat regulation. The collective results of these two studies suggest that cognitive reappraisal is an effective supervisory conflict-management tool. Specifically, reappraisal helps group members see relationship conflict from the other’s perspective. The contributions of this research for groups and teams, interpersonal emotion management, conflict management literatures are discussed.
  • Authors

  • Thiel, Chase E
  • Griffith, Jennifer
  • III, Hardy Jay H
  • Peterson, David R
  • Connelly, Shane
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • August 2018
  • Keywords

  • conflict management
  • emotion management
  • group communication
  • group identity
  • relationship conflict
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 368
  • End Page

  • 380
  • Volume

  • 25
  • Issue

  • 3