What the differences in conflict between online and face-to-face work groups mean for hybrid groups: A state-of-the-art review

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Jessica Kahlow
Hanna Klecka
Erin Ruppel


Conflict has been a topic widely studied in communication and management studies literature. How groups handle conflict can affect group performance, satisfaction, and commitment (Martínez-Moreno, González-Navarro, Zornoza, & Ripoll, 2009; Pazos 2012; Staples & Webster, 2007; Workman, 2007). Much of this literature focuses on online, task-oriented, work groups and how these groups differ from face-to-face (F2F) groups. However, hybrid groups (i.e., those that work both F2F and online) are increasingly common. To better understand conflict in hybrid groups, we review 68 articles regarding online, hybrid, and F2F groups that highlight the differences between F2F and online groups and consider what these differences mean for hybrid groups. In doing so, we identify several emergent themes related to how conflict is managed in online and hybrid groups. The literature suggests that there are many benefits to online and hybrid groups, such as the ability to assemble more diverse teams and work asynchronously, but that conflict is also more common in online than F2F groups. Strong norms and leadership behaviors that encourage trust and cohesion appear to reduce conflict and its effects on group performance and decision making, especially in online groups. These findings suggest that in hybrid groups, F2F meetings might be used to quickly establish group norms, trust, and cohesion can then improve online interactions in the groups. However, more research is needed to understand how conflict occurs and is managed in hybrid groups. Future communication research should focus on examining conflict management in hybrid groups using computer-mediated communication perspectives.

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