Organizational Duels: How to Turn a Major Conflict Into Cooperation

01 Dicembre 2022 - 12:00 / 13:30

403, Viale Romania

Speaker: Giuseppe Delmestri , WU Vienna University of Economics and Business


Mara Brumana (University of Bergamo), Giuseppe Delmestri (WU Vienna)


Organizational conflict studies have consistently shown that conflict escalation leads to paralysis or breakup when disagreement involves goals or identities. In a longitudinal study of conflict escalation endangering organizational survival, we discovered that the conflict got resolved and cooperation restored in a surprising way. The heated escalation of the conflict between organizational coalitions followed a sequence of interactions reminiscent of a literal duel. Our empirical analysis reveals that the conflict escalation was channeled through the ritual interaction of a ‘figurative duel’. The figurative duel, firstly mentioned as an interaction ritual by Goffman and then forgotten, derives from the cultural-cognitive remnants of historical duels and presents three defining characteristics: respectful ritual conduct, high risk, and high visibility. In the restoration process, duelers, as individuals and collective actors, restore their ‘faces’ and create ground for renewed cooperation. Developing Goffman’s intuition and extending it to the organizational level in the form of a process model, we contend that, whilst in the public realm the term ‘duel’ is only used in the context of sports, politics, and market fights between iconic firms, figurative duels are important and overlooked interaction rituals for understanding the resolution of organizational conflict escalation.