Literature indicates that 20 percent of a manager's time is devoted to managing conflict. This underscores the need to understand the conflict triggers, emotions of conflict, and their effects on organizational outcomes. Specifically, research shows that conflict is inherently emotional and may impact trust negatively. While literature is replete with studies examining the relationship between conflict and anger, the connection between conflict and emotions of guilt and shame is least understood. Similarly, knowledge is limited about the impact of the different types of conflict on various forms of trust dimensions and how managers can repair difficult interactions that are conflict-induced.
Using affective events theory and attribution theory as frameworks, the present study fills this void by building and testing a mediating and moderating model of the effects of emotions and conflict accounts in the relationship between conflict and trust. Data were collected from 325 students enrolled in a business school. Data analyses showed that process conflict is associated with guilt and shame while guilt mediated the relationship between conflict and trust. Additionally, conflict accounts moderated the link between shame and benevolence-based trust.
Overall, the current research makes several major contributions to theory and practice. For example, this study extends conflict and emotions literature by showing that conflict can evoke emotions of guilt and shame, and that guilt is connected with all dimensions of trust. The study also contributes to the current debate on how to repair trust or broken interpersonal relationships by showing that conflict accounts such as refusals is associated with low perceptions of trust. Overall, results from the present study should assist managers in the effective management of conflict and emotions to repair broken relationships at work.