Edited by Panikklos Zata Poutziouris, Kosmas X. Smyrnios and Sabine B. Klein
Chapter 19: Feuding Families: The Management of Conflict in Family Firms
19 Feuding families: the management of conﬂict in family ﬁrms Franz W. Kellermanns and Kimberly A. Eddleston Introduction Conﬂict has often been portrayed as a recurring characteristic that diminishes the performance and survival of family ﬁrms (for example, Levinson, 1971). Research on conﬂict, however, notes that not all conﬂict is inherently bad. Studies have focused on a beneﬁcial type of conﬂict, task conﬂict, which has been found to be positively associated with performance when it occurs in moderate levels (for example, Jehn, 1995, 1997a). Task conﬂict involves the open discussion of the merits of ideas, thereby improving the range of options provided to decision-makers. In contrast, relationship conﬂict has been identiﬁed as a detrimental type of conﬂict (Jehn, 1995, 1997a). Relationship conﬂict is associated with resentment, animosity, anger, frustration and hostile behaviors. This dysfunctional nature of relationship conﬂict has a devastating eﬀect on a ﬁrm’s performance. The above-mentioned distinction between task and relationship conﬂict is critical in understanding the consequences of conﬂict, however it falls short in taking into account the unique psychodynamic eﬀects of the family ﬁrm. That is, family involvement must be considered to fully understand how conﬂict occurs and can be managed in family ﬁrms (Dyer Jr, 1986, 1994; Ling et al., 2002; Schulze et al., 2001, 2003b; Schwenk, 1990). While progress has been made in understanding the antecedents of both types of conﬂict in family ﬁrms (for...
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