Intra-functional conflict: An investigation of antecedent factors in marketing functions

Lloyd C. Harris, Emmanuel Ogbonna, Mark M.H. Goode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The objective of this paper is to contribute empirical evaluation of the factors, behaviours and processes that lead to intra-functional conflict, and in so doing to contribute to theory building on these issues, which have important contemporary relevance for theorists and practitioners. Design/methodology/approach - A survey of 1,000 firms was conducted to elucidate the associations between both functional and dysfunctional intra-functional conflict and a number of intra- and extra-organisational variables. Findings - Evidence was found indicating that participative decision making (positively), heterogeneity and centrality of marketing (both negatively) are linked to functional intra-departmental conflict, while leadership quality of senior staff, team spirit and risk-taking proclivity are positively associated with functional intradepartmental conflict and negatively with dysfunctional intra-departmental conflict. No support was found for the claims that departmentalisation and organisation size were associated with either form of conflict. Research limitations/implications - The study supplies an empirical contribution through conceptualising, and subsequently empirically verifying, a model of the antecedents of intra-functional conflict. Empirical contributions stem from findings that, while some parallels exist between the antecedents of intra-functional and inter-functional conflict, differences are evident, and in some cases even orthogonal. This study further reinforces suggestions that marketers have over-emphasised the negative dimensions of conflict and have overlooked the positive (that is, the functional) aspects of conflict. Practical implications - The findings of the study also have numerous implications for practitioners. At a strategic level, the study suggests that executives should acknowledge in their change processes that decisions at an organisational level could have a profound effect on both the functional and dysfunctional conflict in their organisation. Further, given the significant effect of inter-group dynamics, managers of functions may find it beneficial to manipulate a range of intra-functional variables to enhance functional conflict. Originality/value - The value of the current study centres on the conceptual and empirical contributions regarding the drivers of intra-functional conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-476
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Conflict
  • Conflict management
  • Conflict resolution


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