Project Management Institute

How Cooperation Reinforces Conflict over Time

The Role of Simplified Images and Disidentification

Managing projects raises multiple tensions such as the need to balance cooperativeness and assertiveness. By adopting a process perspective, we analyze why a project group consisting of three heterogeneous subgroups is failing to uphold such balance over time. Instead, overemphasizing cooperativeness in the early phases of the project led to over-assertiveness and escalation of group conflict. We identify three mechanisms for reinforcing dynamics. First, we find that subgroups overestimate other subgroups' behavioral autonomy, which promotes holding simplified, negative images of each other. Second, subgroups adopt vertical disidentification when they define their own particular role. Third, cooperativeness conceals pejorative perceptions.
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