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Exploring Board Conflicts in Public Organizations: Sources, Nature, and Effects

Governance and Performance in Public and Non-Profit Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-78635-108-1, eISBN: 978-1-78635-107-4

Publication date: 18 April 2016



The study aims to contribute to the literature on board behavior and performance in public sector organizations, by investigating conflicts as a fundamental and inevitable part of interactions between board members. Despite impressive advances in studying the behavioral dimensions of governing bodies, several gaps still remain in our knowledge, especially for public sector boards. These face specific challenges related to multiple, conflicting, and ambiguous goals.


Earlier studies identified four different types of conflict (affective, cognitive, interest, and authority conflicts). These were used to guide a systematic literature review considering the source and the nature of conflicts to classify and describe the state of knowledge on the topic.


Most academic contributions emphasized cognitive and interest conflicts, suggesting that solving them was essential to improve board performance and enable boards to create value. The results suggest the utility of broadening the perspective of the governing board role, moving beyond agency and institutional theory, taking into consideration resource dependence theory as an alternative perspective to investigate board roles and task expectations.


Understanding conflicts within public boards is an interesting challenge from several perspectives. First, it provides a deep look inside board decision-making processes using a behavioral perspective. Second, analyzing the nature and sources of conflict places boards in a better position to address complex political issues. Finally, resolving conflicts may lead boards to channel their energies into collaborative activities that stimulate best practices, facilitate mutual awareness, and generate commitment to cooperation inside and outside the boardroom.



Tomo, A., Scarozza, D., Hinna, A., De Nito, E. and Mangia, G. (2016), "Exploring Board Conflicts in Public Organizations: Sources, Nature, and Effects", Governance and Performance in Public and Non-Profit Organizations (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 5), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 53-74.



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