Conflict: Positive and Negative Effects of Conflict in Organizations

what-is-conflictThere has been no shortage of definitions of conflict. Despite the divergent meanings the term has acquired, several common themes underlie most definitions.

What is Conflict?

Conflict is a process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affect, something that the first party cares about.

Conflict must be perceived by the parties to it; whether or not a conflict exists is a perception issue. If no one is aware of a conflict, then it is generally agreed that no conflict exists.

Additional commonalities in the definitions are opposition or incompatibility and Some form of interaction.

Actually, conflict comes from the Latin word for striking, but it isn’t always violent.

Conflict can arise from opposing ideas; A conflict is a struggle or an opposition. If you and your best friend both fall in love with the same person, you will have to find some way to resolve the conflict. If you want to turn your empty lot into a community garden but your wife envisions a shooting range, you have a conflict.

If you’re tom between two different desires, you’re conflicted.

If you schedule a dentist appointment that conflicts with a meeting, you’ll have to cancel one of them.

We can define conflict as a process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affects, something that the first party cares about.

We can define conflict in the following ways too:

  • A serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one.
  • Incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests.
  • A strong disagreement between people, groups, etc., that results in an often angry argument.

Effects of Conflict in Organization

Conflict within an organization can lead to creative solutions. As organizations strive to achieve their goals, they are often met with challenges they must overcome as a team.

Challenges leave room for conflict between members, other organizations, communities and other parties involved in the organization’s mission.

While “conflict” often has a negative connotation, the effects of conflict within an organization can be positive and negative.

Positive Effects of Conflict in an Organization

  • Social Change,
  • Decision Making,
  • Reconciliation,
  • Group Unity,
  • Group Cooperation,
  • Inspire Creativity,
  • Share and Respect Opinions,
  • Improve Future Communication, and
  • Identify New Members.

Social Change

Conflict contributes to social change ensuring both interpersonal and intergroup dynamics remain fresh and. reflective of current interests and realities.

Decision Making

Conflict serves to “discourage premature group decision making,” forcing participants in the decision-making process to explore the issues and interests at stake.


Conflict allows for the reconciliation of the parties’ concerns, which can lead to an agreement benefiting both parties’ needs, and often their relationship and organizations.

Group Unity

Conflict strengthens intragroup unity by providing an outlet for group members to discuss and negotiate their interests within the group. Without intragroup conflict, the health of the group typically declines.

Group Cooperation

Conflict between groups produces intra-group unity as the conflict provides the opportunity for increased intra-group cooperation while working towards the group’s common goal for the conflict’s outcome.

Inspire Creativity

Fortunately, some organization members view conflict as an opportunity for finding creative solutions to solve problems. Conflict can inspire members to brainstorm ideas while examining problems from various perspectives.

Share and Respect Opinions

As organization members work together to solve a conflict, they are more willing to share their opinions with the group. Conflict can also cause members to actively listen to each other as they work to accomplish the organizations’ goals.

Improve Future Communication

Conflict can bring group members together and help them learn more about each other.

From learning each others’ opinions on topics relevant to the organization’s growth to understanding each member’s preferred communication style, conflict within an organization can give members the tools necessary to easily solve conflicts in the future.

Identify New Members

Within organizations members actively participate in each meeting, enjoy serving on multiple committees and have an opinion on each topic the group discusses. There are also members who seemingly contribute little to the group and observe more than talk.

Conflict within an organization can inspire typically silent members to step up and demonstrate their leadership skills by offering meaningful solutions to the problem the group is facing.

Negative Effects of Conflict in an Organization

  • Mental Health Concerns,
  • A decrease in Productivity,
  • Members Leave Organization,
  • Violence,
  • Distract Primary Purposes, and
  • Psychological Problem.

Mental Health Concerns

Conflict within an organization can cause members to become frustrated if they feel as if there’s no solution in sight, or if they feel that their opinions go unrecognized by other group members.

As a result, members become stressed, which adversely affects their professional and personal lives.

Organization members may have problems sleeping, loss of appetite or overeating, headaches and become unapproachable. In some instances, organization members may avoid meetings to prevent themselves from experiencing stress and stress-related symptoms.

Decrease in Productivity

When an organization spends much of its time dealing with conflict, members take time away from focusing on the core goals they are tasked with achieving.

Conflict causes members to focus less on the project at hand and more on gossiping about conflict or venting about frustrations.

As a result, organizations can lose money, donors and access to essential resources.

Members Leave Organization

Organization members who are increasingly frustrated with the level of conflict within an organization may decide to end their membership. This is especially detrimental when members are a part of the executive board or heads of committees

Once members begin to leave, the organization has to recruit new members and appoint acting board members.

In extreme cases, where several members leave or an executive board steps down, organizations risk dissolution.


When conflict escalates without mediation, intense situations may arise, between organization members. It’s unfortunate, but organizational conflicts may cause violence among members, resulting in legal problems for members and possibly the organization.

Distract Primary Purposes

Conflict can distract individuals and groups from their primary purposes, leaving them with less time and resources for other activities.

When a conflict involves the use of “heavy contentious tactics,” it can cause the individuals or groups involved in the conflict as well as individuals or groups not involved in the conflict to divert time and resources away from other needs.

Psychological Problem

Conflict can have both short term and long term effects on the physical and psychological health of the individuals involved in or affected by the conflict.

In worst-case scenarios the psychological consequences can include deep trauma and diminished coping mechanisms.

Conflict Management Technique

Conflicts have both positive and negative sides. The conflict management techniques are divided into two parts.The first one is conflict resolution technique and the second one is conflict stimulation techniques, which are given below:

Conflict Resolution Techniques

  • Problem-solving,
  • Superordinate goals,
  • Expansion of resources,
  • Avoidance,
  • Smoothing,
  • Compromise,
  • Authoritative command,
  • Altering the human variable, and
  • Altering the Structural variables.


Face-to-face meetings of the conflicting parties for the purpose of identifying the problem and resolving it through open discussion.

Superordinate goals

Creating a shared goal that cannot be attained without the cooperation of each of the conflicting parties.

Expansion of resources

When a conflict is caused by the society of a resource say, money, promotion opportunities, office space- expansion of the resource can create a win-win solution.


Withdrawal from, or suppression of the conflict.


Playing down differences while emphasizing common interests between the conflicting parties.


Each party to the conflict gives up something of value.

Authoritative command

Management uses its formal authority to resolve the conflict and then communicates its desires to the parties involved.

Altering the human variable

Using behavioral change techniques such as human relations training to alter attitudes and behaviors that cause conflict.

Altering the Structural variables

Changing the formal organization structure and the interaction patterns of conflicting parties through job design, transfers, the creation of coordinating positions and the like.

Conflict Stimulation Techniques

  • Communication,
  • Bringing in outsiders,
  • Restructuring the organization, and
  • Appointing a devil’s advocate.


Using unambiguous or threatening messages to increase conflict levels.

Bringing in outsiders

Adding employees to a group whose backgrounds, values, attitudes, or managerial styles differ from those of present members.

Restructuring the organization

Realigning workgroups, altering rules and regulations, increasing interdependence, and making similar-structural changes to disrupt the status quo.

Appointing a devil’s advocate

Designating a critic to purposely argue against the majority positions held by the group.

Tips for Resolving Conflict Situations

To manage conflict effectively you must be a skilled communicator.

That includes creating an open communication environment in your unit by encouraging employees to talk about work issues. Listening to employee concerns will foster an open environment.

Make sure you really understand what employees are saying by asking questions and focusing on their perception of the problem.

Whether you have two employees who are fighting for the desk next to the window or one employee who wants the heat on and another who doesn’t, your immediate response to conflict situations is essential.

Here are some tips you can use when faced with employees who can’t resolve their own conflicts.

  • Acknowledge that a difficult situation exists.
  • Let individuals express their feelings.
  • Define the problem.
  • Determine underlying needs.
  • Find common areas of agreement, no matter how small.
  • Find solutions to satisfy needs.
  • Determine what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved.

Acknowledge that a difficult situation exists

Honesty and clear communication play an important role in the resolution process. Acquaint yourself with what’s happening and be open about the problem.

Let individuals express their feelings

Some feelings of anger and/or hurt usually accompany conflict situations. Before any kind of problem-solving can take place, these emotions should be expressed and acknowledged.

Define the problem

What is the stated problem?

What is the negative impact on work or relationships?

Are differing personality styles part of the problem?

Meet with employees separately at first and question them about the situation.

Determine underlying need

The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution that everyone can live with.

Looking first for needs, rather than solutions, is a powerful tool for generating win/win options.

To discover needs, you must try to find out why people want the solutions they initially proposed. Once you understand the advantages their solutions have for them, you have discovered their needs.

Find common areas of agreement, no matter how small

  • Agree on the problem.
  • Agree on the procedure to follow.
  • Agree on worst fears.
  • Agree on some small changes to give an experience of success.

Find solutions to satisfy needs

  • Problem-solve by generating multiple alternatives
  • Determine which actions will be taken
  • Make sure involved parties buy into actions. Be sure you get real agreement from everyone.

Determine follow-up you will take to monitor actions

You may want to schedule a follow-up meeting in about two weeks to determine how the parties are doing.

Determine what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved

If the conflict is causing a disruption in the department and it remains unresolved, you may need to explore other campus resources.

In some cases, the conflict becomes a performance issue and may become, a topic for performance appraisals or disciplinary action. Mediation is an option to help resolve and manage conflicts as early as possible.

Mediation may be considered when a grievance has been filed by a represented employee.

Grievances involving “working relationships”, interpersonal communication or uncertainty regarding expectations are examples of problems typically considered for mediation.

Types of Conflict

Before going any further, let us first give a brief description of what conflict is. There are actually a lot of ways to define conflict due to how it is used in many areas.

Hence, to keep it simple for the layman, conflict pertains to the opposing ideas and actions of different entities, thus resulting in an antagonistic state.

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Each of us possesses our own opinions, ideas, and sets of beliefs. We have our own ways of looking at things and we act according to what we think is proper.

Hence, we often find ourselves in the conflict in different scenarios; may it involve other individuals, groups of people, or a struggle within ourselves.

Consequently, conflict influences our actions and decisions in one way or another. Conflict is classified into the following types:

Functional Conflict

Functional conflict is healthy, constructive disagreement between groups or individuals. The conflict which supports the goals of a group and also improves its performance is known as a functional or a positive conflict.

The functional conflict is helpful in the achievement of the goals of a group. Positive results of functional conflict include:

  • Awareness of both sides of issues.
  • Improvement of working conditions due to accomplishing solutions together.
  • Solving issues together to improve overall morale.
  • Making innovations and improvements within an organization.

Dysfunctional Conflict

Dysfunctional conflict is an unhealthy disagreement that occurs between groups or individuals.

The conflict which obstructs the achievement of the goals of a group is called a dysfunctional or destructive conflict. Negative results of dysfunctional conflict include:

  • Individuals use threats, verbal abuse, and deception, which destroy relationships
  • Both parties can end up losing in this type of conflict
  • This type of conflict can lead to retaliation and further acts of negativity

Task conflict

Task conflict relates to the content and goals of the work.

Relationship conflict

Relationship conflict focuses on interpersonal relationships.

Process conflict

Process conflict relates to how the work gets done. Studies demonstrate the relationship conflicts are almost always dysfunctional.

Intra-organizational conflict

It is an umbrella term for any type of conflict that takes place within one organization.

Inter-organizational conflict

It occurs between different organizations, such as between two competing firms in an industry.

Vertical conflict

It occurs between hierarchical levels, say between management and employees.

Horizontal conflict

Horizontal conflict takes place between different individuals, groups or departments at the Same hierarchical level say between two competing departments that have similar power and authority in different areas.

Resource scarcity conflicts

It is a common type of conflict in organizations, takes place where resources are scarce, such as during financial constraints or even if office space is limited, creating conflicts between individuals, teams, and departments.

Role conflict

Role conflict is about expectations of tasks, primarily when they are not communicated effectively or the communication given is not received effectively.

Interpersonal conflict

It refers to a conflict between two individuals. This occurs typically due to how people are different from one another.

We have varied personalities which usually result in incompatible choices and opinions.

Intrapersonal conflict

Intrapersonal Occurs within an individual. The experience takes place in a person’s mind.

Hence, it is a type of conflict that is psychological involving the individual’s thoughts, values, principles, and emotions.

Intra-group conflict

It is a type of conflict that happens among individuals within a team. The incompatibilities and misunderstandings among these individuals lead to an intra-group conflict!

It arises from interpersonal disagreements or differences in views and ideas.

From the above discussion, we can say that the types of conflicts are different and their impacts are also different.

Read Related Posts /