4 Types of Organizational Conflict

The organizational conflict begins when one group senses that another group has or is about to do something negative to the first group.

The most common thought about conflict is that the idea is a perception of individual persons. If no one is aware of a conflict, then it is usually agreed no conflict exists.

Also needed to begin the conflict processes are opposition or incompatibility and some form of interaction.

The reason behind of conflict is miscommunication between individuals concerning needs, ideas, beliefs, goals, or values of theirs.

Conflict can be defined as a process that begins when one party senses that another party has or is about to affect negatively something to the first party cares about.

4 Types of Organizational Conflict

Conflict transpires whenever disagreements exist in a social situation over matters of substance, or whenever emotional antagonisms create frictions between individuals or groups.

Conflict shows a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. The conflict might escalate to nonproductive results, or can be positively resolved and lead to quality final products.

Conflicts can occur because of the task, relationship, or process-related issues between personnel.

Types of Conflict

Organizational Conflict can be classified in 4 ways.

  1. Intra-individual/Intra-personal Conflict.
  2. Interpersonal conflict.
  3. Intra-group Conflict.
  4. Inter-group conflict.

These conflicts can occur because of the task, relationship, or process-related issues.

1. Intra-individual/Intra-personal Conflict

Conflict can be intra-personal, where an individual’s objective and vision differ from his/her company’s overall vision. This refers to a conflict within an individual.

Intra-individual conflict arises from frustration, numerous roles that demand equal attention but is riot always possible to devote, and goals having both negative and positive aspects.

3 types of Intra-individual/Intra-personal Conflict are;

  1. Goal conflict,
  2. Conflict from frustration, and
  3. Role conflict.

Goal conflict

Another common source of conflict for an individual is a goal that has both positive and negative features or two or more competing goals. Goal conflict is more complex than conflict from frustration. Goal conflict occurs when the attainment of one goal excludes the possibility of attaining another.

3 major forms of goal conflict may be distinguished:

  • Approach-approach conflict, where the individual is motivated to approach two or more positive but mutually exclusive goals.
  • Approach-avoidance conflict, Where the individual is motivated to approach a goal and at the same time is motivated to avoid it. The single goal contains both positive and negative characteristics for the individual.
  • Avoidance-avoidance conflict, where the individual is motivated to avoid two or more negative but mutually exclusive goals.

Conflict from frustration

frustration occurs when a motivated drive is blocked before a person reaches the desired goal.

The following figure illustrates the way frustration occurs:

Conflict from frustration

An individual driven by an inner state of deficiency engages himself in some actions to fulfill the deficiency.

But his attempts to reach the goal are checked by barriers which may be overt (external) or covert (internal). External barriers include floods, power failures, and the break-down of transportation.

These are non-social. There are external barriers that are social-they are parents forcing a child to sit on the toilet, making him refrain from the cartoon, making him stay in the room, or denying him the pleasure of watching television. Internal barriers are personal limitations and disabilities which thwart one’s aspirations.

weaknesses, physical deformities, lack of skill, or low intelligence may stand in the way of achievement. Internal barriers are more lasting than external ones.

The frustrated individuals adopt any of four defense mechanisms: aggression, withdrawal, fixation, or compromise.

Aggression refers to the attack of the barrier, physical or symbolically. Withdrawal refers to backing away from the barrier.

Fixation refers to the continuation of efforts to break the barrier. Compromise refers to the search for a new goal.

Conflict occurs in all defense mechanism situations.

Role conflict

The final reason for the intra-personal conflict is the need of an individual to play several roles simultaneously but finding time and resources inadequate to do so.

For example, it is not uncommon for an adult middle-class male to be simultaneously playing the roles of husband, father, son to elderly parents, worker or manager, student (evening MBA program), member of social club, coach of a little league baseball team, bridge partner, poker club member, officer of a community group, and weekend golfer.

Women of course also have numerous often conflicting roles.

Although all the roles that men and women bring into the organization are relevant to their behavior, in the study of organizational behavior the organizational role is the most important.

Roles such as digital equipment operator, clerk, team leader, salesperson, engineer, systems analyst, department head, vice president, and chairperson of the board often carry conflicting demands and expectations.

There is recent research evidence that such conflict can harm well being and performance and may be affected by the cultural difference.

There are 3 major types of role conflict.

  • One type is the conflict between the person and the role. There may be a conflict between the person’s personality and the expectations of the role.
  • A second type is an intra-role conflict created by contradictory expectations about how a given role should be played.
  • Finally, inter role conflict results from the differing requirements of two or more roles that must be played at the same time. Work roles and nonwork roles are often in such conflict.

2. Inter-personal conflict

The most basic type of conflict is inter-personal.

It is between two colleagues – arising from a host of reasons ranging from differences in personality, work-style, and personal background.

The conflict at the inter-personal level involves two or more individuals and is the most common and most recognized type of conflict.

In a way, all conflicts are interpersonal conflicts because most of them involve a conflict between a person in one organization or a group and another person in some other organization or a group.

Every individual has a separate alternative course of action that is acceptable to him and different individuals prefer different alternatives.

Sometimes the organizations also create such circumstances that two individuals find themselves in a situation of conflict.

For example, two managers could be competing for limited capital or manpower resources. The other type of conflict is disagreement over the goals and objectives of the organization.

4 primary sources of interpersonal conflict are.

  1. Personal Differences,
  2. Lack of Information,
  3. Role in Compatibility, and
  4. Environmental Stress.

Personal Differences

This can be a major source of conflict between individuals.

Due to the difference in the upbringing, culture, education, experience, values, and traditions and the family background of the individuals, and interpersonal conflict could arise.

Lack of Information

Another cause of inter-personal conflict could be a lack of information. This information deficiency is often a result of the communication breakdown in an organization.

Role in Compatibility

Role incompatibility could also be a source of conflict as in the present-day inter-functional organizations’ many managers are assigned the task which are interdependent and the individual’s roles of these managers may be incompatible.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stress in an organization can also cause inter-personal conflict.

Such stress is caused by a lack of resources, downsizing, competitive pressures and a high level of uncertainty among the employees of the organization.

The inter-personal conflicts usually get resolved by themselves because the parties at conflict are not in a position to remain in a conflict for a long time. Time itself becomes a healing factor for interpersonal conflicts.

In the case of the persisting inter-personal conflicts, these can be resolved with the help of counseling, effective communication, and win-win negotiation.

The management should look for the basic reason behind conflict and try to resolve them quickly so that an atmosphere of mutual trust and openness could be created and maintained in the organization.

3. Intra-group Conflict

When an individual is pitted against a group and is either unwilling or unable to conform to group dynamics, he or she invariably leaves the team due to intra-group conflict.

4. Inter-group conflict

When the conflict is inter-group, two teams are involved in a deadlock, endangering the successful completion of a project due to differences in group dynamics.

Organizational conflict is the discord that arises when the goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those individuals or groups block or thwart one another’s attempts to achieve their objective.

In addition to interpersonal conflict, social psychologists have been concerned about the intergroup conflict for several years. Intergroup behavior is even specifically identified as follows;

“Intergroup behavior occurs whenever individuals belonging to one group interact, collectively or individually, with another group or its members in terms of their reference group identification.

Several antecedent conditions have been identified for explaining the intergroup conflict.

Reasons behind the inter-group conflict are;

  • Competition for Resources.
  • Task Interdependence.
  • Jurisdictional Ambiguity.
  • Status Struggles.

These can be summarized as follows;

Competition for Resources

Most organizations today have very limited resources. Groups within the organization compete for budget funds, space, supplies, personnel, and support services.

Task Interdependence

If two groups in the organization depend on one another in a mutual way or even a one-way direction, there tends to be more conflict than if groups are independent of one another.

The more diverse the objectives, priorities, and personnel of the interdependent groups (for example, research and production), the more conflict there tends to be.

Jurisdictional Ambiguity

This may involve “turf” problems or overlapping responsibilities.

For example, the conflict might occur when one group attempts to assume more control or take credit for desirable activities or give up its part and any responsibility for undesirable activities.

Status Struggles

This conflict occurs when one group attempts to improve its status and another group views this as a threat to its place m the status hierarchy.

One group may also feel it is being inequitably treated in comparison with another group of equal status in terms of rewards, job assignments, working conditions, privileges, or status symbols.

Human resources departments justifiably often feel they are treated inequitably with marketing, finance, and operations departments.

There is recent research evidence that such groups in conflict change both internally and in their intergroup perceptions.

For example, one study of 70 top management teams found internally that the degree of trust moderated the relationship between task conflict (the perception of disagreements about decisions made by the group) and relationship conflict (an emotional perception of interpersonal incompatibility).

Another study found that lew intragroup cohesiveness and negative relationships across groups were significantly related to higher perceptions of intergroup conflict.

Overall most experts today emphasize the importance of making a cost-benefit analysis of the conflict situation at any level and then setting up dispute resolution systems.

And, most recently, setting up systems through advanced information technology that eliminate conflict inherent in traditional (hierarchical and functional specializations) organization designs.

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