Younger generation white-collar workers’ experiences of interpersonal conflicts with supervisors in South Korea
Park, Jae Hyun
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The purpose of this study was to (a) document interpersonal workplace conflicts experienced by South Korean younger generation (people born after 1976) white-collar workers, (b) investigate personal impacts on younger generation white-collar workers, and (c) explore coping strategies that younger generation white-collar workers used when experiencing interpersonal conflict. Participants in this qualitative study were selected using criterion-based sampling methods. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews. Data analysis was completed using the original Korean transcriptions and selected sentences were translated into English. Data analysis revealed three themes with associated categories. First, younger generation white-collar workers’ conflicts were divided into three dimensions: (a) supervisor’s personal problems, such as ineffective communication, abusive supervision, and professional incompetence, (b) problems in the work process, such as the absence of job autonomy, unfairness in work assignment, and quantity and result-centered performance appraisal, and (c) social/cultural factors, such as hierarchy, authoritarianism, collectivism, and Confucianism. Second, the impact of conflict on younger generation white-collar workers consisted of the following aspects: (a) psychological and emotional distress, (b) decreased work efficiency, and (c) deterioration of personal relationships. Third, younger generation white-collar workers’ coping strategies could be divided into two categories: (a) aversive attitudes and behaviors, and (b) reluctant adaptation. Three conclusions emerged from the findings. First, in South Korea, interpersonal workplace conflicts in supervisor-subordinate relationships had multiple causal dimensions. Second, conflicts negatively influenced South Korean younger generation white-collar workers’ personal and work lives. Third, younger generation white-collar workers had nonconstructive, aversive attitudes toward the conflicts within the South Korean social contexts. In short, younger generation white-collar workers experienced conflicts with supervisors in South Korean workplaces that had diverse causes. It was also observed that these conflicts had negative impacts on the work and quality of life for younger generation white-collar workers did.