Meaning and Causes of Conflicts

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Conflict in an Organization

Workplace conflict is described as a state of disagreement or misunderstanding resulting from a communication gap or dissent of needs, beliefs, resources, and relationships between the members of the organization.

Being humans, conflicts occur when there is no balance between the opinions of both parties. Organizational conflicts occur when there is human interaction. It starts when one member of the organization discusses his/her goal towards the organization and plans to execute it. The disbalance of opinion can come into being within a member, between two members, or also a group of members working in the same organization.

Sources and Causes of Conflicts in an Organisation

There are a number of factors that influence organizational conflicts under certain circumstances. These are as follows:

1. Task Interdependencies  

It is referred to as when accomplishing an organizational goal, a team sums up and works together for that goal to achieve. This results in the interdependence of tasks allotted and often creates confusion in the workplace as people collaborate to accomplish a goal. High interdependence heightens the intensity of relationships and often small disagreements lead to major issues further on.

2. Status Inconsistencies 

This is the second most factor involved as say, for instance, managers get the time off for other errands to take place. This is not allowed to nonmanagers of the organization. It leads to the unfairness of the organizational policies which non managers usually perceive.

3. Communication Problem 

Various communication problems in an organization among people facilitate conflicts. This communication problem occurs when tasks are being shifted from one person to another.

4. Roles and Expectations 

Each employee in the organization plays one or more roles in the organization. These roles are defined through a combination of job titles, description of duties. Manager-subordinate conflict arises when the role of a subordinate is not clearly defined by the manager.

5. Authority Relationships 

There is always an underlying conflict among senior and subordinate. It is because most people do not like being told about the tasks and what to do next. This problem is faced by the managers who are overly strict towards their subordinates and eventually they fail to create a harmonious relationship. 

6. Specialization 

Employees tend to become experts at a particular task or obtain general knowledge about the work they are performing. When the majority of people get specialization, they tend to implement their ideas and in turn, result in conflicts among people. Conflicts also arise when workers have little knowledge of each other’s job responsibilities.

The above are various sources of organizational conflicts within an organization where disputes occur between members. This is not only about any organization. Conflicts occur in businesses too. Various factors or sources of conflicts in business takes place with the communication gap among employees.

There are also subtler conflicts that involve conflicts, jealousy, personality clash, role definitions, power, and favor. The conflict between individuals between competing needs and demands to which individuals respond in a different manner. 

Consequences of Organizational Conflicts

The major cause of unresolved conflict is the communication gap among individuals. This results in confusion, or refusal to cooperate, missed deadlines or delays, and increased stress among employees, disruption in the workflow, decreased customer satisfaction, and gossip.

The conflict in the organization may have some of the following negative effects. The pointers are discussed below:

  1. Diversion of time and energy from the main issue

  2. Creates deadlocks

  3. Delays decision

  4. Interferes listening

  5. Hinders exploration of more and more alternatives

  6. Destroys sensitivity

  7. Disruption in a meeting and arouses anger

  8. Provoke personal abuse

  9. Causes defensiveness


Interpersonal conflict among people at work is the most common and noted stressors for the environment. It further relates other stressors that may co-occur such as role conflict, an overload of work, ambiguity. It also creates strain such as anxiety, depression, and low levels of job satisfaction.

Positive Outcome

Group conflicts are not always categorized as negative. This may sometimes lead to a positive outcome as well. Conflicts lead to subgroups among the group and promote a creative solution to the problem. This is because there is more human resource to solve the existing problem. The group must know how to deal with the problems arising. These conflicts are sometimes necessary as it promotes creative tensions and effective contributions to the organizational goal. It is destructive when the conflict is of win-lose nature. This win-lose conflict leads to compromises and a less than sufficient outcome.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q1. Mention Two Sources of Conflict within an Organization?

Ans. Every employee has needs and expectations at work. In the process of work and organizational goals, certain needs and expectations are ignored. This leads to conflict in the organization. Below are two types of conflicts within an organization:

1. Business values - Often people have clear values and intentions towards the organization’s policies and procedures. These policies must reflect this. 

For example, giving the employee a fair hearing or explaining a valid reason for the decision taken. 

2. Personality clashes - A personality mix is seen among the team when often a new member joins. Individuals respond to the situations in an unhelpful or unproductive way.

Q2. What are the Two Types of Group Conflicts in an Organization?

Ans. Conflicts arise in groups because of the scarcity of many resources. There are two main types of group conflicts namely intragroup and intergroup conflict. 

1. Intragroup conflict - People seek power and struggle with others for the position or status within the group. Members are inclined to compete with each other for rewards and prizes. Competition is more prevalent than cooperation and leads to a win-lose climate and environment. Interaction is conducted for the purpose to identify a winner and a loser and not to achieve mutual problem solving

2. Intergroup conflict - This conflict occurs in four general forms. Horizontal strain includes disputes between sales and production, purchasing, and legal department. The vertical strain is a conflict among hierarchical levels. Union and management or foreman and middlemen management.

Disputes settled on the basis of power or through a strike and lockout. None of the outcomes is happy.