First Advisor

Cynthia D. Mohr

Term of Graduation

Winter 2012

Date of Publication

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology






Interpersonal conflict, Coping variation, Job tenure, Conflict management, Conflict (Psychology), Nursing -- Job stress -- Prevention



Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 220 p.) : ill.


Increasingly, evidence indicates that workplace interpersonal conflicts (WIC) are the most upsetting/troublesome daily work stressors (Sulsky & Smith, 2007), and within the context of nursing, WIC is a problem of high prevalence and intensity (Baltimore, 2006; Farrell, 1999). In relation to coping with stressors such as WIC, Lazarus and Folkman (1984) established the transactional model of stress and coping, where cognitive appraisals of the stressor (e.g., perceived control) are central to coping and classified all coping behaviors as either problem-focused or emotion-focused. They also proposed the "goodness of fit hypothesis", which predicts that problem-focused coping efforts used to cope with stressors of high appraised control and emotion-focused coping paired with stressors of low appraised control will produce the most effective outcomes. Contrary to these predictions, the general literature has produced inconsistent results, suggesting that context, research method, and individual difference variables (i.e., occupational tenure) should be considered when testing this hypothesis, particularly in novel contexts such as the nursing workplace. This research was part of a larger study to identify key factors in the retention of nurses in the workforce, including a weekly survey spanning 12 weeks. Across the 12 week study period, 148 nurse participants completed an online survey, which included questions regarding the most negative interpersonal conflict at work for that week, the appraised controllability of the event, how the participant coped across 8 coping strategies, and how effective the coping efforts were. I used hierarchical linear modeling to test the goodness of fit hypothesis with these data, where the interaction terms between coping frequency and control represented the key predictions of goodness of fit. Results revealed no support for the goodness of fit hypothesis, as the interactions were not significant. Consistent with goodness of fit, however, perceived control positively predicted problem-focused coping and negatively predicted emotion-focused coping for some nurses. This suggests that despite no improvement in coping outcomes, the underlying mechanisms for goodness of fit (i.e., matching perceived control with coping type) were in operation. Results also demonstrated no support of occupational tenure as a variable influential on the coping process. However, supplemental analyses revealed that as organizational tenure increased, nurses varied their coping strategies more, which then, in turn, produced more effective coping outcomes. As the first effort to examine goodness of fit within the workplace to the best of my knowledge, these results suggest that the goodness of fit hypothesis may only have limited applicability to nursing, but should be examined in other nursing contexts and workplace conditions. Moreover, the length of time a nurse spends with an organization seems to influence one's coping style and the ability to match coping efforts with situational characteristics, producing more effective coping with interpersonal conflicts at work. These findings also imply that providing nurses with training about organization-specifics may improve efforts to cope with interpersonal conflicts that arise in the workplace.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Psychology

Persistent Identifier