The blame game: An attribution theory approach to marketer–engineer conflict in high-technology companies

Keaveney, Susan M.
Industrial Marketing Management; Vol. 37 Issue 6, p. 653-663

Marketer–engineer conflict is a pervasive and as-yet unresolved problem of critical importance to high-technology companies. This study updates and extends marketing literature by applying qualitative research methods including the critical incident technique to examine the causes of conflict between marketers and engineers in high-technology companies. Narratives from both marketers and engineers are interpreted from an attribution theory perspective as well as in the context of recent management research on interfunctional conflict. Results draw attention to a high proportion of personal attributions, indicating high levels of relationship-conflict; these results are in contrast to the task-conflict typically addressed by the marketing literature. Discussion highlights the changes in high-technology organizational culture since first by described by Workman 15 years ago [Workman, J. (1993). Marketing’s limited role in new product development in one computer systems firm. Journal of Marketing Research, 30 (4), 405-421.], and recommendations for managers are offered.