Organizational conflict is defined as a state of disagreement that is caused by perceived or actual opposition amongst the people working in an organization. The hostility or conflict can be of interests, values or needs that can result in an inevitable clash between authority and the people affected or even between colleagues.
What is organizational conflict?
Organizational conflict can take many forms and faces as the disputes can be related to how long the employees should work, how the work should be undertaken, division of responsibility, how the revenues should be divided and even jurisdictional disagreements between union and management and amongst departments or individuals.
Organizational conflict can also be subtle in the form of role definitions, jealousy, rivalry and the struggle for favour or power.
Conflicts in an organization can be caused because of several reasons, and it is essential to find a constructive resolution to sort out the issues. There should be a rational process in place to explore issues, find alternatives, listen to the grievances of all the parties and solve problems through a willing and cooperative endeavour.
Types of organizational conflict
The various types of organizational conflict are as follows
1. Inter-personal conflict
It is one of the basic types of organizational conflict that occurs between two colleagues because of differences in personal background, work-style and personality. The primary sources of inter-personal conflict are
A. Lack of information
This type of organizational conflict occurs because of the break-down in communication between two or more individuals in an organization
B. Personal differences
This type of organizational conflict arises because of the differences in family background, traditions, values, experience, education, culture and upbringing.
C. Environmental stress
This type of organizational conflict occurs because of uncertainty due to the lack of resources, competitive pressure and downsizing. The environmental stress can be resolved by itself after a certain period, counselling and effective communication
D. Role incompatibility
This type of organizational conflict occurs because of the differences or incompatibility between an individual and his manager
2. Intra-personal conflict
The conflict that arises within an individual is known as intra-personal conflict. It happens because of the difference in the vision and objective between an individual and the organization’s overall vision and objective. Intra-personal conflict is of three types
A. Goal conflict
Goal conflict happens in an individual when achieving one goal eliminates the possibility of attaining another one. It is considered complex because this goal has both negative and positive features or two or more competing goals that cause conflict.
The three types of goal conflict are
B. Approach-approach conflict
This goal conflict occurs when the individual approaches two or more than two mutually exclusive and positive goals
Approach-avoidance conflict –
This goal conflict occurs when the individual approaches one goal but at the same time is motivated to avoid it also. This is because the goal includes both negative and positive characteristics that result in goal conflict
Avoidance-avoidance conflict – This goal conflict occurs when the individual approaches two or more mutually exclusive and adverse goals.
C. Role conflict
This type of organizational conflict occurs when an individual tries to play several roles but does not have the time and resources to do so.
Role conflict can occur between the expectation of the role and the personality of a person
Role conflict can occur because of contradictory expectation about how the role should be played
D. Conflict from frustration
This type of conflict occurs when the motivated drive of an individual is blocked even before he reaches his desired goal. His inner state of deficiency then engages in an action to cover up it. Either internal or external barriers stop his attempts to reach the goal
External barriers include break-down of transportation facilities, power failure, flood etc
The internal barrier includes disabilities, low intelligence, lack of skill or personal limitations which can put a roadblock on the aspirations of an individual.
The defence mechanism adopted by individuals include compromise, fixation, withdrawal and aggression
3. Intra-group conflict
This type of organizational conflict occurs when an individual has to work in a group and is unwilling to match the group dynamics. This leads to his exclusion from the group
4. Task interdependence
This type of organizational conflict occurs when two groups in an organization are dependent on each other in a one-way direction or for mutual benefit. The conflict is of greater magnitude because of differences in priorities and objectives
5.Competition for resources
Groups within a company have to compete for support services, personnel, supplies, space and funds and this limited resources result in organizational conflict
6. Jurisdictional ambiguity
This type of organizational conflict occurs because of overlapping responsibilities or when one group tries to take either credit or control for desirable activities
7. Status Struggles
This type of organizational conflict occurs when one group tries to improve its status, and another group perceives it as a threat to them
Causes of organizational conflict
The causes are as follows-
1. Unclear expectations
When managers fail to communicate their expectations to the employees, it leads to unclear expectations and thus results in organizational conflict
2. Break-down in communication
An essential cause of organizational conflict is a break-down in communication between departments or groups or even individuals.
3. Unclear responsibility
Lack of clarity regarding the tasks and responsibilities of employees in an organization is a reason for organizational conflict
4. Status inconsistencies
A critical cause of organizational conflict is social inconsistencies amongst the involved parties.
5. Misunderstanding information
Simple misunderstandings is also a cause of organizational conflict.
6. Individual differences
If you are looking for causes of organizational conflict, then individual differences like skills, traits and personal abilities along with their behaviour and dominant qualities can result in conflict.
7. Lack of accountability
If something goes wrong and no one is ready to take responsibility for the mishap then it can cause organizational conflict
8. Task interdependencies
The higher the task interdependencies amongst groups, departments or individuals; the higher is the chance of organizational conflict because of differences in goals, expectations and results.
High dependency heightens the intensity of the relationship, and this is why even a small difference in opinion can get out of hand and result in conflicts and issues
9. Jurisdictional disputes
Another cause of organizational conflict is judicial differences and especially when it is not clear where the responsibility of something lies
10. Dependence on common resources
If a company has limited resources and several departments have to share them then a time will surely come when it will cause organizational conflict
11. Lack of common performance standards
The difference in reward systems or performance criteria is a severe cause of organizational conflict
Ways to manage and resolve the organizational conflict
In a workplace, conflict is inevitable, and so it becomes imperative to find modes and means that will help to resolve and manage such situations. Remember organizational conflict can prove dangerous and destructive, and if not stopped at an appropriate time can create havoc and serious repercussions.
The various ways to manage conflicts are
- Set up a formal grievances procedure that will listen to all the issues and take appropriate steps to find a viable solution
- All the involved parties must be given the necessary time to speak and lay their case
- Make sure that all conflicts are handled in a positive manner
- Try to concentrate on cause and not effect while finding a solution for resolving the organizational conflict
- Active participation and the desire to find a solution can pave the way for steps to manage and resolve the organizational conflict
The advantages are as follows
1. Encourages healthy argument
When there is a difference in opinion, it leads to organizational conflict. The best thing about it is that it results in debate and discussion along with healthy competition that can prove advantageous if you treat it positively.
It improves team culture and helps people to know about the viewpoint of other involved parties. This encourages team members to handle situations without losing their cool
2. Boost motivation
Friendly rivalry and debate can be a great motivational tool that helps productivity
3. Encourages to reach the set goals
It is a fact that when individuals are fighting it out amongst themselves about the best ways, then they are automatically moving towards their goals.
Dealing with difficult situations becomes easy as the debates and arguments offer various perspectives that can be used favourably.
4. Clarifies doubts and queries
Organizational conflicts help to clarify doubts. This ultimately improves the workplace environment
5. Sense of commitment
One of the advantages of organizational conflict is that it encourages a sense of commitment amongst team members.
6. Removes anxiety and stress
During conflicts, all the concerned parties are involved in arguments, and this proves cathartic as all your negative emotions are swept away. This ultimately reduces the levels of anxiety and stress and leads to a calm ad peaceful environment
7. Boosts productivity
Organizational conflict leads to resolution of issues that otherwise could have proved harmful. This ultimately is a reason for being more productive in future
8. Encourages change
Organizational conflict encourages change by helping you to find solutions to the existing issues.
9. Creating new ideas
During disagreements, it is possible to get hold of some intriguing ideas that can prove beneficial.
The disadvantages are as follows
1. Diverts attention from significant issues
Organizational conflicts often divert attention from the main problem as people keep on disagreeing and shifting topics to prove their point
2. Creating deadlocks
During the organizational conflict, people start putting their onus on differences and this results in a deadlock
3. Delaying decisions
Some individuals will rebel against working under others or even in teams under a team leader. They will keep on interfering in essential matters and ultimately become a reason for delaying decisions.
4. Leads to frustration
Organizational conflict does not allow individuals to listen to the argument of others. It leads to frustration, anxiety and disagreements that can continue for a long time and prove harmful for the company
5. Withholding information
In case of organizational conflict individuals, teams or even departments tend to withhold critical information that can slow down the completion of tasks
6. Reduces communication
When there is an ongoing conflict, people tend to become cynical and generally adopt either aggressive or avoidance behaviour. This often results in missed and reduced communication as no one is interested in talking then