Can conflict be energizing? A study of task conflict, positive emotions, and job satisfaction

Gergana Todorova, Julia B. Bear, Laurie R. Weingart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Scholars have assumed that the presence of negative emotions during task conflict implies the absence of positive emotions. However, emotions researchers have shown that positive and negative emotions are not 2 ends of a bipolar continuum; rather, they represent 2 separate, orthogonal dimensions. Drawing on affective events theory, we develop and test hypotheses about the effects of task conflict on positive emotions and job satisfaction. To this end, we distinguish among the frequency, intensity, and information gained from task conflict. Using field data from 232 employees in a long-term health care organization, we find that more frequent mild task conflict expression engenders more information acquisition, but more frequent intense task conflict expression hinders it. Because of the information gains from mild task conflict expression, employees feel more active, energized, interested, and excited, and these positive active emotions increase job satisfaction. The information gained during task conflict, however, is not always energizing: It depends on the extent to which the behavioral context involves active learning and whether the conflict is cross-functional. We discuss theoretical implications for conflict, emotions, and job satisfaction in organizations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)451-467
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Emotions
  • Functional diversity
  • Job satisfaction
  • Learning
  • Task conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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