Assessing conflict management styles and work-related wellbeing of employees in higher education in South Africa
Van Niekerk, Wilme Mari
MetadataShow full item record
Higher education institutions contribute to the economy of South Africa, by the maintenance of knowledge (Gibson et al., 1994; Waghind, 2002). Both academic personnel and support staff play an important role in the economic development and future of South Africa (Ensor, 2004; Pitman, 2000). Due to certain perceptual barriers in the interpersonal relationship between the mentioned groups, conflict is experienced. It is, therefore, important to create an awareness of conflict management styles, in order to deal effectively with conflict in the Higher Education Institution. These conflicts impacting interpersonal relationships exert an influence on these groups‟ work-related wellbeing. It is imperative to assess these relationships as there is a lack of research on the impact of conflict management styles on the work-related wellbeing of academic personnel as well as support staff. The general objective of the present study was to assess the relationship between the different conflict management styles and work-related wellbeing of employees working in a higher education institution. A cross-sectional survey design was used for data- collection purposes. A combined quota and convenient non-probability sample of academic personnel (n = 180) and support staff (n = 201) was taken from a higher education institution in South Africa. Measuring instruments were used for biographical characteristics, conflict management styles (The Rahim Organizational Conflict Inventory-II), burnout (The Oldenburg Burnout Inventory) and engagement (The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale). Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to ensure validity of each instrument within the South African context. Cronbach alpha coefficients were used to determine the reliability of the findings. Descriptive statistics (e.g. means, standard deviations, skewness and kurtosis) were employed to investigate the characteristics of the sample. Correlations were examined to identify significant relationships between constructs. Multiple-regression analysis was employed to investigate predictions between the dependent (Burnout and Engagement) and independent (conflict management styles) variables. MANOVAs and ANOVAs were used to establish differences between academic personnel and support staffs‟ styles to manage conflict and their work-related wellbeing. The results indicated the existence of a relationship between conflict management styles (i.e. compromising, avoiding and dominating) and work-related wellbeing (Burnout and Engagement). The compromising conflict management style indicated a significant positive relationship with disengagement, and a significant negative relationship with engagement. The avoiding conflict management style was statistically and practically significantly related in a negative way to exhaustion, and positively related to disengagement. The compromising conflict management style was a predictor of engagement and disengagement. The avoiding conflict management style was a predictor of exhaustion. A significant difference was found between academic personnel and support staff regarding their styles to deal with conflict. It was found that support staff members use the dominating and compromising conflict management style to a greater extent than academic personnel. No differences were found regarding the experience of work-related wellbeing between the groups. In light of the findings recommendations were made for higher education institutions to follow up on as well as for future research on the topic.