Can Avoiding Conflict be Beneficial? A Field Investigation of Gender, Conflict Avoidance, Emotional Labor, and Emotional Exhaustion
37 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2011
Date Written: June 17, 2011
Past research has shown that situations involving conflict arouse greater anxiety and discomfort in women than men, and that women are more likely to avoid conflict. In this research we examine how conflict avoidance affects emotional exhaustion. Specifically we asked, does avoiding conflict reduce emotional exhaustion or does avoiding have additional negative emotional effects? In the context of a large healthcare organization, we examined the extent to which gender moderated the effect of conflict avoidance on emotional exhaustion. As predicted, women reported greater avoidance of conflict than men. This was partly due to women’s lower tolerance for disagreement. Results also showed that men and women benefited differently from avoiding conflict. Specifically, conflict avoidance resulted in lower emotional exhaustion for men but not for women. Our results suggest that conflict avoidance was associated with more emotional labor (in terms of hiding feelings) for women, but not for men, suggesting a possible reason for why conflict avoidance did not benefit women. Implications for future research on the relationships between gender and conflict avoidance, emotional labor, and emotional exhaustion are discussed.
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