Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict is among individuals such as coworkers, a manager and an employee, or

CEOs and their staff. For example, in 2006 the CEO of Airbus SAS, Christian Streiff, resigned

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because of his conflict with the board of directors over issues such as how to restructure the

company. [3] This example may reflect a well-known trend among CEOs. According to one estimate,

31.9 percent of CEOs resigned from their jobs because they had conflict with the board of

directors. [4] CEOs of competing companies might also have public conflicts. In 1997, Michael Dell

was asked what he would do about Apple Computer. “What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the

money back to shareholders.” Ten years later, Steve Jobs, as CEO of Apple Inc., indicated he had

clearly held a grudge as he shot back at Dell in an e-mail to his employees, stating, “Team, it turned

out Michael Dell wasn’t perfect in predicting the future. Based on today’s stock market close, Apple is

worth more than Dell.” [5] In part, their long-time disagreements stem from their differences.

Interpersonal conflict often arises because of competition, as the Dell/Apple example shows, or

because of personality or values differences. For example, one person’s style may be to “go with the

gut” on decisions, while another person wants to make decisions based on facts. Those differences

will lead to conflict if the individuals reach different conclusions. Many companies suffer because of

interpersonal conflicts. Keeping conflicts centered around ideas rather than individual differences is

important in avoiding a conflict escalation.


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