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Intra‐functional conflict: an investigation of antecedent factors in marketing functions

Lloyd C. Harris (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Emmanuel Ogbonna (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Mark M.H. Goode (School of Business and Economics, Swansea University, Swansea, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 4 April 2008




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.


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.


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.


The value of the current study centres on the conceptual and empirical contributions regarding the drivers of intra‐functional conflict.



Harris, L.C., Ogbonna, E. and Goode, M.M.H. (2008), "Intra‐functional conflict: an investigation of antecedent factors in marketing functions", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 42 No. 3/4, pp. 453-476.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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