Conflicts and Sales Information Transmission across Functional Boundaries

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Few empirical studies have examined the relationship between cross-functional conflict (e.g. between salespeople and engineer) and intra- group conflict (e.g. between salespeople). Salespeople experience both form of conflict, as they are required to have the ability to conduct sales information transmission as boundary spanners. This study investigated the effects of intra- group conflict and information transmission on inter- functional conflict using data from Japanese salespeople. The results indicate an interaction between intra- group conflict and information transmission, such that (1) when a salespeople has higher process conflict with other salespeople, the salespeople who transmits information more often has relatively higher cross- functional process conflict, and (2) when a salespeople has higher relationship conflict with other salespeople, the salespeople who transmits information more often has relatively higher cross- functional relationship conflict. The model developed here contributes to an integrated perspective on conflict within a company.

INTRODUCTION

Conflict - that is, awareness on the part of the parties involved of discrepancies, incompatible wishes, or irreconcilable desires (Boulding, 1963) unavoidably occurs in situations in which people depend on each other. Many conflict studies have shown that firms are more successful when they manage their conflicts (Dreu & Weingart, 2003; Dreu, 2006; Jehn,1995; Matsuo,2006; Schmidt & Kochan,1972). Some authors have examined conflict's negative function, which is to negatively affect innovativeness, effective communication, and information sharing within organizations by breaking up members' concentration (Jehn & Mannix, 2001; Matuo, 2006). In contrast, conflict can activate members' discussion about tasks by increasing motivation to solve problems (Amason, 1996). Therefore, monitoring the characteristics of conflict is crucial for managers (Matuo, 2006), but this characteristic of conflict has been monitored only in relationships between one group's members.

In addition, although some empirical studies have investigated intra-group conflicts and cross-functional conflicts, they have not yet examined the relationship between cross-functional conflict and intra-group conflict. In the real world, however, we work not only with intra-group members, but also with inter-functional group members. For example, in Japanese industrial companies, a salespeople visits a customer with an engineer, whose role is to offer technical support to the customer. In this situation, members have contact with intra-group and interfunctional members at the same time, so we can predict that members' intra- group conflict would affect the inter-functional relationship.

Furthermore, salespeople manage conflicts, when they are charged with transmitting sales information as boundary spanners (Aldrich & Herker,1977; Tushman & Scanilan,1981). A salespeople's transmission of sales information to an engineer is a form of communication (Dawes & Massey, 2005; Morgan & Piercy, 1998). Communication is a very important tool for managing conflict (Dawes & Massey, 2005). On the other hands, some research findings have reported that conflict occurs because of frequent communication (Hunter & Geobel, 2008). In this manner, although some studies have investigated the relationship between sales transmission and conflict (e.g., Hunter & Geobel, 2008; Maltz & Kohli, 1996), thus far, no consensus has been arrived at on the nature of this relationship.

This study explores two relationships, first, how intra-group conflict affects interfiinctional conflict, and second, how information transmission frequency can moderate this relationship, by examining conflict involving sales people in Japanese firms.

CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK

Intra- Group Conflict & Cross-functional Conflict

Previous research has examined two conflict relationships within companies. …