Objectives: The aim of this prospective study was to examine the relationship between interpersonal conflicts at work and subsequent self-reported health outcomes (self-reported general health, need for recovery, and prolonged fatigue) and occupational mobility (internal mobility ie, changing job function, and external mobility ie, changing employers).
Methods: Data from the Maastricht Cohort Study on fatigue at work (n = 5582 for co-worker conflict; n = 5530 for supervisor conflict) were used. Interpersonal conflict with either co-workers or supervisors was assessed between baseline and 1-year follow-up. Outcomes were studied every 4 months between 1-year and 2-year follow-up. Logistic regression analyses using generalised estimating equations were conducted for each of the dichotomous outcomes, while controlling for demographic factors, the presence of a long-term illness, other workplace stressors, coping, and outcome at baseline. Analyses were conducted for men only.
Results: At baseline, conflicts with co-workers occurred in 7.2% of the study population, while conflicts with supervisors occurred in 9.5% of the study population. In general, this study showed that co-worker conflict was a statistically significant risk factor for the onset of an elevated need for recovery, prolonged fatigue, poor general health and external occupational mobility. Supervisor conflict was a significant risk factor for the onset of an elevated need for recovery, prolonged fatigue, external occupational mobility, and internal occupational mobility.
Conclusions: The results of this study indicate a possible causal relationship between interpersonal conflicts at work and self-reported health and occupational mobility. Given the considerable impact of interpersonal conflicts at work on the individual worker and on the organisation, and the fact that interpersonal conflicts at work are highly prevalent, these findings underline the need for interventions aimed at preventing the occurrence of interpersonal conflicts at work, or at least reducing the harmful effects on both the employee and the organisation.
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Competing interests: None declared.