Taohong ZHU

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPHIL)



First Advisor

Prof. Dean Tjosvold

Second Advisor

Dr. Alfred Wong


Synthesizing theories of social identity, goal interdependence, and conflict management, this study built and tested a theoretical model in which interdepartmental goal interdependence affects conflict outcomes between different departments through constructive controversy (i.e. the open-minded discussion for mutual benefit) dynamics adopted by employees from different departments in the organization. This study also proposes that organizational identification moderates the link between interdepartmental goal interdependence and constructive controversy.

An interview sample of 129 employees from various business organizations and diverse industries in mainland China described and rated a critical incident when they had a conflict with their coworker from another department in the same organization. Results of the structural equations modeling and other analyses support the hypotheses and the hypothesized model that interdepartmental goal interdependence, specially, cooperative, competitive, and independent goals, are antecedents to employees between different departments engaging in constructive controversy and that constructive controversy in turn influences conflict outcomes, specifically, task accomplishment, employee intention to quit, and their intentions for future cooperation. Results further indicate that employee identification with the organization moderates the association of competitive interdepartmental goal interdependence with constructive controversy such that employees who identify strongly with the organization will be more likely to engage in open-minded discussion of controversy dynamics than employees who identify weakly with the organization. These results underline the positive role of employee organizational identification in conflict management, especially under competitive interdepartmental goals.

Findings suggest important practical implications that employees from different departments can improve their collaboration in Chinese organizations by strengthening their common organizational identification, setting cooperative interdepartmental goal interdependence, and handling conflict through constructive controversy. The study contributes to the conflict management literature as well as the social identity theory in organizational behavior literature.


organizational identification, constructive controversy, interdepartmental goal interdependence, conflict management

Recommended Citation

Zhu, T. (2013). Conflict management between employees from different departments: Contribution of organizational identification and controversy (Master's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from