Conflict‐Handling Behaviors of Korean Immigrants in the United States

Published date01 June 2017
Date01 June 2017
AuthorYeju Choi
C R Q, vol. 34, no. 4, Summer 2017 375
© 2016 Association for Confl ict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( • DOI: 10.1002/crq.21186
C o n ict-Handling Behaviors of Korean
Immigrants in the United States
Yeju Choi
Although there is a great deal of literature that has focused on con-
icts faced by monocultural people, cross-cultural confl ict scholars have
not yet focused on the confl icts faced by bicultural people.  is topic
deserves more study as cultural clashes—confl icts between foreign-born
residents and Americans—are prevalent. Considering the number of
the immigrants in the United States and the speed of globalization,
more confl icts could arise not only in the workplace, but also anywhere
else, such as between neighbors, coworkers, colleagues, peers, and even
among intercultural family members.  erefore, in order to prepare for
this type of confl ict, this research examined confl ict-handling behaviors
of bicultural people. Among many immigrants, this study focused on
Korean immigrants in the United States through the Confl ict Com-
munication Scale ( CCS ) and compared the results with nationality, the
amount of time that the immigrants have lived in the United States,
the level of acculturation, and gender.
A s globalization has contributed to making the world smaller, the inter-
actions among people across cultures have also increased. Since many
individuals try to communicate and work with those who have diff erent
values and beliefs, the potential for confl ict across cultures has increased
(Leong 2001 ). Confl ict is “the perceived and/or actual incompatibility
e author wishes to thank David Schmidt and the two anonymous reviewers for their
comments which signifi cantly improved this manuscript.
376 CHOI
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
of values, expectations, processes, or outcomes between two or more
parties over substantive and/or relational issues” (Ting-Toomey 1994 ,
360). According to confl ict scholars, increased cultural diversity indeed
has increased the number of confl icts (Tardif and Geva 2006 ), and this
topic—the cultural diff erences and their confl ict-related behaviors—has
been studied by many cross-cultural confl ict scholars.
However, scholars have not focused on the confl icts faced by bicultural
people. Not much literature is available on how immigrants—especially
Korean immigrants—will behave in confl ict-related situations. According
to the U.S. Census Bureau (Gambino, Trevelyan, and Fitzwater 2014 , 1),
“39.8 million foreign-born people resided” in the United States—almost
ten percent of the U.S. population—and approximately 1.1 million are
Korean immigrants. Considering that this great number of people have
numerous interpersonal relationships and confl icts in the United States, it
is very important to understand how immigrants—Korean immigrants—
behave in confl ict situations.  erefore, this study will focus on examining
confl ict-handling behaviors of Korean immigrants in the United States.
Literature Review
Con ict Management Styles
Interpersonal confl ict occurs when two or more individuals perceive them-
selves as being incompatible to each other in preferred attitudes, behaviors,
goals, outcomes, or values (Elsayed-EkJiouly and Buda 1996 ; Wilmot and
Hocker 2014 ). Although people commonly perceive confl ict negatively,
confl ict scholars have argued that confl ict is not necessarily a negative or
positive phenomen on (Kriesberg 2003 ; Ting-Toomey et al. 2000 ). Rather,
whether confl ict is constructive or destructive depends on how individuals
manage confl ict. Scholars have examined these “types of social behavior
that people exhibit during a disagreement or dispute,” and this has resulted
in the study of confl ict management styles (Posthuma et al. 2006 , 243).
Confl ict scholars have employed two dimensions to conceptualize the
confl ict management styles model (Blake and Mouton 1964 ; Hall 1969 ;
Rahim and Bonoma 1979 ; omas 1976 ). Am ong many models, Rahim
and Bonoma s ( 1979 ) dual concern model is most commonly used in the
recent fi eld of confl ict management. In their model, Rahim and Bonoma
( 1979 ) conceptualized diff erent styles of handling confl ict using concern for
self and concern for others.  rough the combination of the two dimensions,
Con ict-Handling Behaviors of Korean Immigrants 377
C R Q • DOI: 10.1002/crq
they identifi ed the fi ve confl ict management styles: integrating (collabora-
tion, problem solving), obliging (accommodation, smoothing), dominating
(competition, forcing), avoiding (withdrawing), and compromising.
Integration indicates high concern for both self and others, mean-
ing that the individual tries to satisfy the goals of both parties. Obliging
indicates low concern for self and high concern for others, meaning that
the individual tries to satisfy others’ goals more than his or her own goals.
Dominating indicates high concern for self and low concern for others.
is indicates that the individual tries to achieve his or her own goals over
others’ goals. Avoiding indicates low concern for self and others.  is means
that the individual is indiff erent to goals of self and others. Lastly, compro-
mising indicates the midpoint of concern for self and others, which means
that the individual tries to meet in-between the goals for self and others.
Cultures and Con ict Management Styles
ere are many factors that infl uence individuals’ choice of confl ict man-
agement styles. Among them, this research will focus on how culture aff ects
confl ict management styles.
Individuals generally behave in a way that refl ects their culture (Berry
1997 ; Berry et al. 1992 ). Cul ture refers to “the subjective elements of indi-
vidual cognitions in the form of perspectives, personality, values, beliefs,
and attitudes” (Posthuma et al. 2006 , 245). According to Elsayed-EkJiouly
and Buda ( 1996 ), culture “defi nes the values and interests that are at the
core of each confl ict, which in turn shapes people s perception of them-
selves and others, as well as the style by which one handles confl ict” (72).
In other words, the basic premises and norms of a culture greatly infl uence
individuals’ choice of confl ict management styles (Kaushal and Kwantes
2006 ; Posthuma et al. 2006 ; Ting-Toomey 1985 , 1988 ; Ting-Toomey et
al. 2000 ; Triandis 2000 ; Trubisky, Ting-Toomey, and Lin 1991 ).
As culture diff ers in preferred values and beliefs, every culture has its
preferred style of confl ict management (Cai and Fink 2002 ; Lee and Rogan
1991 ). en, how diff erent are cultures? How do these diff erences aff ect
confl ict management styles?
Cross-cultural scholars have employed numerous dimensions examin-
ing the elusive concept of culture. Hof stede, Hofstede, and Minkov (2010)
used power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, masculinity,
long-term orientation, and indulgence versus restraint to see diff erences
among cultures. Hall and Hall ( 1990 ) used dimensions such as context,

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