Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Communication Studies and Theatre

First Advisor

Elizabeth Tolman


interpersonal communication, relational dialectics theory


Account service and creative personnel have oppositional perspectives and motivations that often lead to interpersonal conflicts while working together on client projects. The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of interpersonal conflicts in advertising agencies. The researcher used relational dialectics theory as a lens for analyzing the dialectical (i.e., oppositional) tensions experienced by account service and creative personnel as well as the praxis patterns (i.e., techniques) used to manage those tensions. After conducting in-depth interviews with five account service and five creative personnel (N = 10) from full service advertising agencies in the Midwest, an analysis revealed that research participants discussed a variety of conflicts between account service and creative personnel during the client project process. Overall, interpersonal conflict stemmed from methods of communication, direction of the project, lack of respect, and working style. Research participants also experienced six main dialectical tensions including: openness vs. closedness, individual vs. collaborative work time, ideal vs. real, stability vs. change, defend vs. accept, and subjective vs. objective. Participants described five praxis patterns that they use to communicatively manage those dialectical tensions: emphasizing one pole of the tension over the other, alternating between poles, source-splitting, framing tensions as double binds, and framing tensions as complementary. Based on participant responses, framing tensions as complementary was the most constructive way to manage dialectical tensions because it contributed to an advertising agency culture of mutual trust and respect.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Advertising agencies -- Officials and employees.
Interpersonal communication.
Interpersonal conflict.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 77-83)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright