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How Relationship Conflict Between New Employees and Coworkers Affects Performance

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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 their jobs?

Conflict among coworkers is immensely harmful to work performance. It impedes information flow, negatively affects the ability of 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.

Researchers Sushil Nifadkar at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business and coauthor Talya Bauer at Portland State University’s School of Business examined the issue, using data collected from Indian software engineers who had been with their companies for six months or less. The research was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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.

As a result, they start looking at other potential relationship targets other than their coworkers, 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.

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.

Learn more in an interview with Sushil Nifadkar:
[vimeo 294015512 w=640 h=360]

If you cannot view this video in your browser, visit https://vimeo.com/294015512.

The paper is available upon request; contact [email protected] for more information.

The research citation is 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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000035

Sushil Nifadkar is an assistant professor of international business in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. Talya Bauer is the Cameron Professor of Management at the Portland State University School of Business in Portland, Ore., and is president of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Learn more about Robinson College of Business research at https://robinson.gsu.edu/research/.

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