Handbook of Research on Family Business
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Handbook of Research on Family Business

Edited by Panikklos Zata Poutziouris, Kosmas X. Smyrnios and Sabine B. Klein

The Handbook of Research on Family Business provides a comprehensive first port of call for those wishing to survey progress in the theory and practice of family business research. In response to the extensive growth of family business as a topic of academic inquiry, the principal objective of the Handbook is to provide an authoritative and scholarly overview of current thinking in this multidisciplinary field.
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Chapter 19: Feuding Families: The Management of Conflict in Family Firms

Franz W. Kellermanns and Kimberly A. Eddleston


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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