Conflict in Inter-organisational Virtual Communication

  • Yi-Hui Lee

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This study explores the nature of conflict in virtual communication in the course of inter-organisational collaborations. Conflict appears to exist inherently when organisations cooperate together because each company operates with different goals, norms and values, which are vital considerations for successful business collaborations. Special attention, therefore, needs to be paid to gaining a grounded understanding of conflict in the context of virtual communication in the interorganisational business collaborations of today. This research draws on fieldwork carried out over five months, using a multiple-case study approach, involving four cases of inter-organisational collaborations between a large high-tech corporation in Taiwan and its four supplier companies in Korea. In addition, participant observation was employed as the main method of data collection in this study, which allowed for this researcher to gain rich data in a direct way. The collected data included daily logs based on observations, in addition to interviews and documentation. This resulted in an extensive amount of useful information being gathered, which was analysed, categorised, interpreted, and summarised in relation to theory generalisation. In this inter-organisational research setting, it was found that three patterns of interorganisational conflict, namely: business strategic conflict, cultural conflict and organisational process conflict interact to influence participants’ communication media selection and, in turn, conflict is influenced by the selected media. Moreover, it was found that conflict is expressed in email communication in a stylised way that is significantly different from spoken conversation and it could lead to conflict escalation and the subsequent termination of business collaboration. Based on the research findings, a comprehensive framework was established to describe and explain the interrelations between conflict transformation and computer-mediated communication (CMC) in inter-organisational collaborations.
Date of Award1 Oct 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAndroniki Panteli (Supervisor)


  • inter-organisational collaboration
  • virtual organising
  • Conflict

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