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The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/1044-4068.htm

IJCMA 24,2

Workplace conflict and employee well-being
The moderating role of detachment from work during off-job time Sabine Sonnentag and Dana Unger
Department of Psychology, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany, and

166

¨ Inga J. Nagel
Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this study is to address the relation between task and relationship conflicts at work and employee well-being. It seeks to examine psychological detachment from work during off-job time as a moderator in the relation between conflicts and well-being. Design/methodology/approach – In a field study, 291 white-collar employees completed survey measures of task conflicts, relationship conflicts, psychological detachment from work during off-job time, and well-being. Control variables included workload and job control. Findings – Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that employees experiencing high levels of task conflicts and high levels of relationship conflicts report poorer well-being. As predicted, psychological detachment from work mitigated the negative relation between relationship conflicts and well-being. Contrary to expectations, psychological detachment failed to moderate the relation between task conflicts and well-being. Practical implications – The study suggests that employees should be encouraged to disengage mentally from work during leisure time. Originality/value – This study links research on workplace conflicts with research on recovery processes. It tests the moderator effect of psychological detachment from work on the association between workplace conflicts and well-being. Keywords Task conflicts, Relationship conflicts, Well-being, Psychological detachment, Conflict management, Employees, Germany Paper type Research paper

International Journal of Conflict Management Vol. 24 No. 2, 2013 pp. 166-183 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1044-4068 DOI 10.1108/10444061311316780

Workplace conflicts are a widespread phenomenon in organisational life. Empirical research has shown that employees who experience workplace conflicts suffer from strain symptoms (De Dreu et al., 2004) such as depression (Spector and Jex, 1998), burnout (Richardson et al., 1992), and somatic complaints (Frone, 2000). Thus, workplace conflicts may constitute a serious threat to employees’ well-being. Despite this empirical evidence, crucial questions remain unanswered. First, most studies on the association between workplace conflicts and well-being used rather general measures of conflict and did not differentiate task conflicts and relationship conflicts. Thus, until now we know only very little about the specific relations between task versus relationship conflicts on the one hand and employee well-being on the other The authors would like to thank Anne-Grit Albrecht and Alexander Pundt for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.

hand (De Dreu et al., 2004). This paucity of research is unfortunate, because the use of overall conflict measures may mask differences in the patterns for task versus relationship conflicts. The differentiation between task and relationship conflict has been proved useful with respect to, for instance, teamwork processes (Gamero et al., 2008). Second, it remains largely unanswered whether these assumed associations between workplace conflicts and impaired well-being hold for all employees and under all circumstances. There is first evidence that personality is a moderator in the relation between workplace conflicts and employee well-being (Dijkstra et al., 2005a, b; Spector and Bruk-Lee, 2008). However, other moderators, particularly moderators that are more malleable, remain largely unexplored (De Dreu and Beersma, 2005). In this paper, we focus on psychological detachment from work during non-work time as a potential moderator (Sonnentag and...
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