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Task conflict is usually associated with effective decisions, and relationship conflict is associated with poor decisions. The 2 conflict types are typically correlated in ongoing groups, however, which creates a prescriptive dilemma. Three explanations might account for this relationship-misattribution of task conflict as relationship conflict, harsh task conflict tactics triggering relationship conflict, and misattribution of relationship conflict as task conflict. The authors found that intragroup trust moderates the relationship between task conflict and relationship conflict in 70 top management teams. This result supports the "misattribution of task conflict" explanation. The authors also found a weak effect that is consistent with the argument that tactical choices drive the association between the 2 conflict types. We infer that trust is a key to gaining the benefits of task conflict without suffering the costs of relationship conflict.


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© American Psychological Association. Final version published as: Simons, T. L., & Peterson, R. S. (2000). Task conflict and relationship conflict in top management teams: The pivotal role of intragroup trust. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(1), 102-111. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.85.1.102
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*This article was the recipient of the Cornell University School of Hospitality Administration Research Award for 2002.