Organizational Conflicts || Mobilizing Individuals and Groups || Bcis Notes

Organizational Conflicts

Organizational Conflicts

Organizational Conflicts is also known as workplace conflict is described as the state of disagreement or misunderstanding, resulting from the actual or perceived dissent of needs, beliefs, resources, and relationships between the members of the organization. At the workplace, whenever, two or more persons interact, conflict occurs when opinions with respect to any task or decision are in contradiction.

Concept of Organizational Conflicts

Organizational conflicts, or workplace conflict, is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values, and interests between people working together. Conflict takes many forms in organizations. There is an inevitable clash between formal authority and power and those individuals and groups affected. There are disputes over how revenues should be divided, how the work should be done, and how long and hard people should work. There are jurisdictional disagreements among individuals, departments, and between unions and management. There are subtler forms of conflict involving rivalries, jealousies, personality clashes, role definitions, and struggles for power and favor. There is also conflict within individuals – between competing needs and demands – to which individuals respond in different ways.

In simple terms, organizational conflict alludes to the result of human interaction, which starts when one member of the organization discerns that his/her goals, values or attitude are incompatible, with those of other members of the organization. The incompatibility in opinions can come into being, within a member, between two members, or between groups of the organization.

Types of conflicts

It is very important that managers understand the type of conflict that they have to deal with so that they can devise some standardized techniques in dealing with common characteristics of conflicts in each type of category. There are five basic types of conflicts. These are:

1. Conflict within the individual:
The conflict within the individual is usually value related, where role-playing expected of the individual does not conform with the values and beliefs held by the individual. For example, a secretary may have to lie on instructions that her boss is not in the office to avoid an unwanted visitor or an unwanted telephone call. This may cause a conflict within the mind of the secretary who may have developed an ethic of telling the truth. Similarly, many Indians who are vegetarians and come to America and find it very hard to remain vegetarians may question the necessity of the vegetarian philosophy thus causing conflict in their minds.

2. Interpersonal Conflict:
Interpersonal conflict involves conflict between two or more individuals and is probably the most common and most recognized conflict. This may involve conflict between two managers who are competing for limited capital and manpower resources. This conflict can become further acute when scarce resources cannot be shared and must be obtained. Similarly, if there are two equally deserving professors and they are both up for promotion, but only one of them can be promoted because of budget and positional constraints, then this could result in interpersonal conflict between the two professors.

3. The conflict between the individual and the group:
As has been discussed before, all formal groups and informal groups have established certain norms of behavior and operational standards that all members are expected to adhere to. An individual member may want to remain within the group for social needs but may disagree with the group goals and the methods to achieve such goals.

4. Intergroup conflict:
An organization is an interlocking network of groups, departments, sections or work teams. The intergroup conflicts are not so much personal in nature as they are due to factors inherent in the organizational structure. For example, there is an active and continuous conflict between the union and the management.

5. Inter-organizational conflict:
Conflict also occurs between organizations that are dependent upon each other in some way. This conflict may be between buyer organizations and supplier organizations about quantity, quality and delivery times of raw materials and other policy issues. Such conflict could also be between unions and organizations employing their members, between government agencies that regulate certain organizations and the organizations that are affected by them.

Sources of Conflicts

Conflict occurs when there is a perception of incompatible interests between workplace participants. … There are a variety of sources of workplace conflict including interpersonal, organizational, change-related, and external factors.

The first step in uncovering workplace conflict is to consider the typical sources of conflict. There are a variety of sources of workplace conflict including interpersonal, organizational, change-related, and external factors.


Interpersonal conflict is the most apparent form of conflict for workplace participants. It is easy enough to observe the results of office politics, gossip, and rumors. Also, language and personality styles often clash, creating a great deal of conflict in the workplace. In many workplaces, there are strong ethnocultural and racial sources of conflict as well as gender conflict. This may lead to charges of harassment and discrimination or at least the feeling that such things exist. People often bring their stresses from home into the office leading to further conflict. An additional source of workplace conflict can be found in varying ideas about personal success. The strong drive for work-related achievement in some participants can clash with participants who do not emphasize work-related success in their lives.


There are a number of organizational sources of conflict. Those relating to hierarchy and the inability to resolve conflicting interests are quite predominant in most workplaces. Labour/management and supervisor/employee tensions are heightened by power differences. Differences in supervisory styles between departments can be a cause of conflict. Also, there can be work style clashes, seniority/juniority and pay equity conflict. Conflict can arise over resource allocation, the distribution of duties, workload and benefits, different levels of tolerance for risk-taking, and varying views on accountability.


The modern workplace has significant levels of stress and conflict related to change-management and downsizing. Technological change can cause conflict, as can changing work methodologies. Many workplaces suffer from constant reorganization, leading to further stress and conflict. In line with a reorganization, many public and non-profit organizations suffer from downloading of responsibilities from other organizations. Workplace analysts should review the history of the particular organization, reaching back as far as 10 years to determine the level of churn that has taken place. Generally speaking, the more change and the more recent the change, the more likely there will be significant conflict.

External Factors

External factors can also lead to conflict in the workplace. Economic pressures are caused by the recession, changing markets, domestic and foreign competition, and the effects of Free Trade between countries. Conflict arises with clients and suppliers affecting customer service and delivery of goods. Also public and non-profit workplaces, in particular, can face political pressures and demands from special interest groups. A change in government can have a tremendous impact, especially on public and non-profit organizations. Funding levels for workplaces dependent upon government funding can change dramatically.

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