Using Perspective Taking to Manage Conflict and Affect in Teams

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This article draws from the author's larger 1993 study on antecedents and consequences of conflict in teams. It looks at the influence of perspective taking on types of conflict and the influence of conflict on affect. Teams using perspective taking were hypothesized to perceive conflict as task oriented as opposed to people oriented. Although both types of conflict were hypothesized to lead to arousal within the team, people-oriented conflict was expected to lead to a more negative team tone. To test hypotheses on perspective taking, 15 medical teams participated in a perspective-taking training program while 15 teams served as a control group. Perspective taking was also measured using self-report scales. Conflict and affect were measured using observation and self-report. Although the training program had no impact on perceived conflict, teams with higher perspective taking (using self-report measures) were likely to perceive conflict as task oriented and less likely to perceive it as people oriented. Hypotheses on the impact of conflict on affect were supported. This study suggests that conflict and negative affect do not necessarily go hand in hand, and that perspective taking is one mechanism teams can use to help manage conflict.



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