A conflict may be defined as an active effort by an individual or a group for its own preferred interests at the cost of others. Some conflict is inevitable in any organisation because of basic divergence of interests between the subordinates and management.

Learn about:- 1. Introduction to Conflict 2. Definition of Conflict 3. Concept 4. Characteristics 5. Conflict Generating Factors 6. Aspects 7. Levels 8. Emerging View of Conflict 9. Sources 10. Stages 11. Causes

12. Methods for Managing Conflict 13. Important Conflict Stimulating Strategies 14. Preventive Measures 15. Advantages and Disadvantages.

Meaning and Definition of Conflict

Conflict Meaning – Introduction

It is not possible to compress the essential ingredients of “conflict” in a precise definition because it occurs in many different settings and may take several forms “an enemy to be defeated, a moral dilemma to be resolved a woman or man to be won, a contract to be signed, a production quota to be beaten etc.”


Often, it is couched in such colorful expressions like controversy, strife, battle, clash and internecine warfare. But the essence of conflict appears to be disagreement, contradiction and incompatibility. More specifically, conflict is a process in which an effort is purposefully made by one person or unit to block another that results in frustrating the attainment of the other’s goals or the furthering A of his or her interests.

Generally speaking, every moment in life seems to be a source of conflict. When people are confronted with questions such as, what to wear? What to eat? When to go to bed or when to get up? They face conflict situations. Conflict occurs when people are in antagonistic interaction situations where one party attempts to block the intentions or goals of another.

To put it in a simple way, we are in conflict when we are unable to decide, even in simple situations such as, whether we should wear this dress or that dress; whether to eat at the Chinese restaurant or Italian restaurant. Although competition between two teams creates rivalry, it can have healthy impact because it energizes people toward higher performance.

In organizations, when Research and Development department fights for a larger share of the budget whereas the manufacturing department also cites reasons for a large share of the budget, there is potential for conflict. Competition whether it is between individuals, departments, organizations or even countries leads to conflict some of which can end up in wars.

Conflict Meaning – Definition

A conflict may be defined as an active effort by an individual or a group for its own preferred interests at the cost of others. Some conflict is inevitable in any organisation because of basic divergence of interests between the subordinates and management.


Conflict refers to a disagreement between two individuals. It is very much essential for organisational point of view. If there is no conflict in an organisation, then that organisation will not grow in reasonable manner. Therefore, according to modern approach, conflict is welcome for the development.

In ordinary language, conflict refers to the state of dilemma. It is the breakdown of standard mechanism of decision making. In simple sense, it refers to the difference in opinion.

It refers to the struggle between opposite needs or interest of people.


Some typical conflict situations are given below:

(a) Production personnel feel that quite a few labour leaders have access to the personnel department, and information about any disciplinary action proposed to be taken by the department is leaked out to these leaders and it has its reactions at the shop floor.

(b) Quality control staff feel that they are unnecessarily pressurised for okaying defective components on grounds such as the components are functionally all right; production would be held up; or that such a practice was followed in the past, etc.

(c) Accounts people feel that the operative departments are not cost-conscious. In their opinion, some of the expenses which could be easily avoided are incurred on untenable grounds. When they object to such payments, they are pressurised from the top.


(d) Officers feel that they should go on strike while the ‘iron is hot’, but their leaders, who are in league with the management, adopt delaying tactics to cool down the tempers and thus render any action meaningless.

(e) Management seeks to rationalise costs by installing automatic plants and labour-saving devices. Workers look upon this as a potential threat to their jobs and earnings and refuse to accept any proposal aimed at rationalisation.

(f) Head of one department leaks some vital information about another head to one of his subordinates, who takes advantage of it and instigates other members of the department against his counterpart.

(g) A supervisor is alleged to have misbehaved with a worker. Shop floor employees in all departments stop work and demand his immediate dismissal. He may be in the good books of the management and his immediate boss may refuse to recommend any action against him.


(h) At the negotiating table, workers are promised certain benefits, which the management fails to honour. The workers lose faith in the management and give a strike call.

Conflict Meaning – Meaning and concept of Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Each one of us possesses an opinion, ideas and beliefs. We all have our own ways of looking at things and we act the way we think is proper. In a place where two or more people work, the differences in opinion is natural. Since organisation happens to be a group of people, the presence of conflict is nearly certain. Therefore, conflicts happen to be an important part of every organisation. The task of the manager, therefore, is to understand the conflict fully and handle it effectively.

Organisational conflict refers to difference in objectives, values and attitudes of the individuals and groups in an organisation. It can arise due to disagreement between individuals and departments due to their dissimilar focus.

According to Joseph A Litterer, “Conflict describes situations in which persons or groups disagree over means or ends and try to establish their views in preference to others”.


There is a general tendency to view conflict as a negative experience caused by abnormally difficult situations. It creates tension, lack of coordination, hostility and disagreement between individuals and groups. However, conflict is not always detrimental to the interests of the organisation.

It offers opportunities for growth and creativity through improved understanding. It also brings out problems in open, helps in realising tension and address the needs of the workers satisfactorily. Therefore, conflicts should not be totally eliminated rather efficiently managed for the effective functioning of the organisation.

Conflict Meaning – Top 9 Characteristics

On the basis of definition of conflict we can derive various characteristics of conflict.

These are:


1. Conflict is a process – Conflict occurs in ‘layers’. First layer is always misunderstanding. The other layers are differences of values, dif­ferences of viewpoint, differences of interest and interpersonal dif­ferences. It is a process because it begins with one party perceiving the other to oppose or negatively affect its interests and ends with competing, collaborating, comprising or avoiding.

2. Conflict is inevitable – Conflict exists everywhere. No two persons are the same and they may have individual differences. The differences lead to conflict. Although inevitable but conflict can be minimized, diverted or resolved.

3. Conflict is normal part of life – Individuals, groups and organizations have unlimited needs and different values but limited resources. Thus, this incompatibility is bound to lead to conflicts.

4. Perception – It must be perceived by the parties to it, otherwise it doesn’t exist. In interpersonal interaction, perceptions are more im­portant than reality.

5. Opposition – One party to the conflict must be perceiving or doing something the other party doesn’t like or want.

6. Interdependence and interaction – There must be some kind of real or perceived interdependence. Without interdependence there can be no interaction. Conflict occurs only when some kind of interaction takes place.


7. Everyone inflicted with conflict – Conflict may occur within an indi­vidual, between two or more individuals, groups or between orga­nizations.

8. Conflict if not unidimensional – It comes into different ways in accor­dance with degree of seriousness and capacity.

9. Awareness – The awareness of conflict by the parties is an essential prerequisite for conflict to arise.

Conflict Meaning – Factors

There are several conflict generating factors which can be classified as follows:

1. Psychological factors – Ambition, ego, selfishness resulting in personal considerations getting precedence over organisational needs.

2. Power seeking – A conflict for power struggle takes place when ev­eryone wants to be follower.


3. Weak leadership – Conflict arises if someone of less stature leads a more qualified and experienced worker.

4. Communication – A breakdown in communication and when it is improper, inadequate, ineffective or misleading.

5. Work Role aspects – Many conflict crises in a role related areas. It falls within the domain of role stress i.e. role ambiguity, role overload, role overlap etc.

6. Organisational restructuring leading to decentralisation – Delegation problem is inevitable. Another problem is goal incongruity i.e. organ­isational goal and department’s goal may be different.

7. Incompatibility – A party holds behavioural preferences like attitudes, values, skills, goals the satisfaction of which is incompatible with another person’s implementation of his/her preferences. Another reason may be insufficient remuneration to employees.

8. Status – Status is a state, condition or situation. When there is a need for status and a wrong person is promoted, the status becomes a source of conflict.

Conflict Meaning – Aspects: Functional and Dysfunctional Aspects

I. Functional Aspects of Conflict:

More often conflict leads to certain positive outcomes.


A few of them are:

1. It provides an individual a chance to think again, undertake self-introspection and have a second look at the existing things, be they procedures, policies, equipment, behaviours etc.

2. It leads to innovation and at times to new direction. It is, therefore, even necessary for organisation’s survival and growth.

3. It helps seek classification and generate search behaviour.

4. At times, it is also used as a means to certain ends and to create confusion or set subordinates against each other in order to maintain the interested party’s own position. It may not be a positive outcome in the strict sense of the term from the organisational point of view, but it is certainly a management strategy to ward off problems temporarily. It may be viewed as an unavoidable cost of the pursuit of one’s aspirations.


5. When conflict is developed, attention is immediately drawn to the malfunctioning parts of a system. It is an indication that the situation calls for improvement. Conflict is, therefore, an essential portion of a cybernetic system.

6. Long standing problems, which continue to agitate people’s minds, surface. They are able to release their tensions and unburden themselves. They display creativity in identifying solutions and problems are dealt with.

7. It energizes people, leads to mild stimulation and one is at one’s best in times of crisis. It helps them test their capacities.

8. It serves as a cementing force in a group and incredible unity is witnessed even in a heterogeneous group in times of tension.

9. For some, it is exhilarating, provides endless challenge and meaning to then- lines.

II. Dysfunctional Aspects of Conflict:

Many times conflicts may be detrimental and disastrous.


A few of such circumstances in which it can be termed as harmful and undesirable are discussed below:

1. When conflict does not lead to solution of a problem, it is unproductive and investment of time and effort goes waste.

2. It is undesirable if it creates a climate of distrust and suspicion among people, if some people feel defeated and demanded and if it develops antagonism instead of spirit of cooperation.

3. It is seriously harmful if it detracts attention from basic organisational objectives and makes people work for their defeat.

4. As a consequence of conflict, there may be flight of personnel from the organisation.

5. When management loses objectivity and treats disagreement as equivalent to disloyalty and rebellion, an opportunity for creativity should be deemed to have been lost. It may even pour oil over troubled water, exploit differences to straighten itself and weaken others, and accept resolutions capable of different interpretation.

6. In an attempt to find a solution, management may gloss over serious differences and suppress certain feelings which may erupt at inappropriate moments and hit ‘safe’ targets.

7. In the event of a conflict, there may be intensification of internalisation of sub-unit goals which may result in the neglect of overall organisational goals.

Conflict Meaning – 3 Levels: Individual Level, Group Level and Organisational Level

In an organisation conflicts can be noticed mainly at three levels:

1. Individual level,

2. Group level, and

3. Organisational level.

1. Conflicts at Individual Level:

The types at individual level as represented in figure are discussed below:

i. Intra-Individual Conflict:

In this type of conflict, the individual has an unbalanced state of mind. He feels that in a situation a choice has to be made between alternatives that both are undesirable. It is a state of decision-indecision condition of the mind (dilemma). It is the situation in which an individual has a problem in decision making.

ii. Inter-Individual Conflict:

This type of conflict takes place when two individuals are hostile to each other. Inter-individual conflict may be between two persons of the same group. In such a case it is known as intra-group conflict. If the conflict is between two individuals of different groups, then it may be regarded as inter- individual conflict. This, at times may lead to inter-group conflict.

Causes of Individual Conflicts:

The following are some of the causes for individual level conflicts:

i. Individual Needs:

Every individual when he joins an organisation has certain hopes that he will be able to satisfy his needs in one way or the other during his tenure of service and accordingly he works diligently to achieve the organisational goals. Since the individual’s needs are not constant and frequently changing according to the situations, the individual is dissatisfied with the rewards that he receives from the work.

He is unable to satisfy his needs. At this stage conflicts arise with the clash of individual needs and that of the organisational goals. This normally occurs due to inconsistency existing in organisational reward system as the needs are not limited at any point of time.

ii. Values and Beliefs:

Our conviction about what is true, and what is false, or right or wrong, and the influence to react towards a particular occasion favourably or unfavourably, can be a source of conflict.

Values are principles of standard. They differ from individual to individual. For example, in an organisation, values of management and employees can differ from each other. Manager is mainly interested in productivity and profit of the organisation. At the same time, employees keep the values for their better welfare, job security and a substantial wage system and so on. These different principles of management and of employees may clash with each other and a conflict may surface.

Beliefs can be termed as the truest confidence in anything or can be called as acceptance of a doctrine by any individual. Doctrine (principle) is what is taught, a body of instruction. In an organisation the doctrine is what the individual follows. Also it may differ according to one’s choice. Therefore the conflict is likely to arise at inter- and intra-individual and group levels.

Disparity between Aspiration and Achievement:

Aspiration is an ambition or a strong desire to achieve something in life. Every individual in an organisation aspires for something or the other for his betterment, for example, increase in his wages, promotion and good working conditions, etc. If the aspiration of an individual is not achieved, the individual gets frustrated.

Such frustration leads to dissatisfaction and ultimately leads to conflict. The disparity between these variables (aspiration and achievement) usually develops as a sequel to very low organisational performance. Researches have revealed that the relationship between frustration and conflict is not always variable.

At times, due to prolonged frustration, the individual tries to adjust with the situation and it becomes unavoidable despite the disparity existing in the organisation.

Inaccurate Judgement:

This happens, when we feel the other person or group as a threat and act in a way that becomes a serious cause for a conflict. An inaccurate judgement can lead to confusions. Generally, an individual or a group blames others. Sometimes, this apportionment of blame may be false merely due to a perceptual error.

In such situations, the affected party or group may be forced to act accordingly, whereby an aggression/conflict is likely to erupt. Conflict is a common phenomenon, when groups have different knowledge and views, which contribute to their opposing the views and judgements.

2. Conflicts at Group Level:

Conflicts at this level include formal and informal groups in an organisation.

a. Intra-group conflict – When conflict takes place between two members of same groups, it is termed as intra-group conflict.

b. Inter-group conflict – This happens, when two members of different groups are involved in a conflict. This process is called Inter-individual conflict (if groups are not involved). When individuals of two different groups are involved in a conflict, it is known as intergroup conflict.

Causes of Group Conflict:

Following are a few important causes of group conflicts:

i. Inconsistency in Setting the Goals:

Setting goal of two groups can have certain amount of influence in group relationship. Organisational management usually indicates relative performance of each group. It is but natural; the accomplishment of task assigned to groups requires inter-group coordination.

Setting of goals is to be rightly understood by departments, sections, subsections and groups (while setting their target plans) for accomplishment of target. Any sort of inconsistency in setting of goals by groups at various levels may adversely affect achievement of organisational goals.

For example, competitive spirit between groups in various departments may lead to the winning and losing of groups in their performance. Such competition necessarily needs to be a healthy one and in conformity to the organisational goals.

ii. Resource Sharing:

Paucity of resources often poses problems to the working groups. Mutual dependence on available resources becomes inevitable. This problem forces groups for acquisition of resources. At this stage, competition is natural in intra-group or inter- groups, as a sequel to mounting work pressure.

However, such a pressure/tension in groups may not pose any threat to group cohesiveness. As a matter of fact, paucity of resources may be of the nature of human, material and financial. If every department in an organisation faces scarcity either of one resource or the other, sharing of resource/ s, competition and acquisition of resources do invariably lead to conflict.

iii. Joint Decision Making:

The necessity of joint decision making is felt to determine the area where it is needed. It becomes necessary to have a joint decision making for ensuring better cooperation and harmony.

For efficient management, following principles of interdependence are vital for the head of any organisation, when the departments under him are looked after by different executives, as departmental heads. Department heads will have various claims and counterclaims in their functioning.

It is but natural that sometimes the head of the organisation and the departmental heads may a have difference of opinion. The clashes of individual views can lead to conflict. Therefore, to iron out these differences between departmental heads and the head of the organisation, the latter must hold a joint decision making to avoid differences.

iv. Specialisation and Decision of Labour:

Specialisation can also be a cause of conflict, since different specialists have to make a joint effort for accomplishment of goals. Specialists of different groups may have their own opinions so far as the execution of work is concerned. Their opinions may differ and can lead to conflict.

In an organisation there are line managers and staff managers. It is an accepted norm in management that whatever the staff personnel propose has to be executed by the line management. In this, the goals of the two kinds of management personnel may often lead to conflict.

v. Unclarified Roles and Responsibilities:

Individuals or groups with proper role and responsibilities are aware of what they are supposed to do. When responsibilities are not properly clarified and the role is not specified, there is confusion about what to do and what not to do.

Then there is every possibility of a group surpassing the limits prescribed, for example, a task group of quality control, interfering in the job of task group of packing and storage. Such an interference may end in a conflict.

vi. Faulty Communication:

The interpersonal communication factor is of vital importance in creating group conflict. This can be termed as faulty communication. This happens when individuals communicate with others in a manner that annoys them. However, it may not be an intentional act. Faulty communication is normally due to the absence of clarity. For example, a superior’s communication is not properly conveyed to the subordinate and the subordinate was unable to carry out his orders.

The subordinate is confused about what he is supposed to do. At a later stage the superior finds that his subordinate has not completed the work and takes the subordinate to task. This act of the superior is also a reason for the subordinate becoming angry and thus it leads to conflict.

An unnecessary annoyance of a superior, turns to be a negative feedback, which creates vexation. Instead of helping the subordinate to do a better job, this makes the condition worse.

3. Conflicts at Organisational Level:

Conflicts manifest in the organisational level due to various reasons like- hierarchical positions, line and staff relations, competition, scarcity of resources, competitive reward system, ambiguity of authority, interdependence or work units etc.

i. Ambiguity over Authority and Jurisdiction:

This happens when individual or group is not assigned with clear and proper responsibilities and duties to be performed. While allotting them, it is essential to delegate proper authority to the leader of the group for execution. Over and above, the jurisdiction of the authority has to be specified clearly to avoid overlapping.

ii. Line and Staff Discord:

In an organisation, line managers are the persons, who are responsible for the functional aspect of jurisdiction of their work. At the same time, staff personnel are to show the policy, direction and the line management has to execute such policies as per the advice of the staff management personnel.

Many a times, clashes between line and staff do occur on various policy matters or of inter-function. Normally, such differences are of constructive matters or of intervention and seldom violate the organisational norms.

iii. Competition between Work Units for Scarce Resources:

This is one of the vital causes for organisational conflict. It is not possible to have unlimited resources for any one department. Conflicts often take place due to inadequate distribution of money, equipment and machinery coupled with human resource.

If resources are inadequate to meet the bare necessities of work units and groups, they create tension amongst people and groups, which ultimately result in a clash.

iv. Competition on Reward System:

When reward system is introduced on the basis of competitive performance with a specific target for production, etc., there is every possibility of conflict in-between the people who look at the system as unfair due to lack of performance capability to sustain the targets set. Such groups may experience resentment and also enter into the process of conflict.

v. Strained Management-Union Relations:

Management and unions relations get affected due to many reasons like, wage policy, welfare facilities, superior and subordinate understanding and cooperation, rigid attitudes of union and management in setting the issues concerned to personnel aspects, etc. These can also lead to conflicts.

vi. Hierarchical Power Differentiation and Discontent:

In an hierarchical system in which grades of status or authority rank are above one another, the top most person in the hierarchy is the supreme authority to all in the organisation. Power and authority are vested in the top executive by virtue of law and due to his personal power.

Here the transfer of authority or delegation of authority to the subordinate in the hierarchy is usually seen as the advice of the top executive. He delegates the authority to those in whom he has confidence that they will execute it fairly for the best interest of the organisation.

At the same time, many personnel of equal status in the hierarchy of the organisation may not have the same power and authority, as power is not delegated to them. This may create discontent and may become the cause for hierarchical conflict in covert (not open) or overt (openly) form.

The above discussion is mainly focused on intra-organisational conflicts. Same way there are inter-organisational conflicts also. The inter-organisational conflicts are between two or more organisations. Today in the modern business world, an organisation and Government can also be parties in conflict.

Inter-organisational conflicts are of many forms like- power imbalance, government intervention, business policies and rules and also intervention of political parties in organisational functioning.

Conflict Meaning – Emerging Views

The emerging view of conflict, called as interactions view, reverses many of the cozy nostrums of human relations management. The integrationist view of conflict has a broader scope. It recognizes that in some cases conflict may be helpful, facilitative and functional.

The integrationist views may be summarized as:

1. Conflict is not an Organisational abnormality. On the other hand, it is a normal aspect of social intercourse. It is a fact of life that must be understood rather than fought.

2. Conflict is inevitable. It is an inherent structural component in all social relations.

3. Conflict is neither bad nor good for Organisations. Perfect Organisational health is not free from conflict.

4. Conflict is not always caused by trouble makers. It is rather determined by structural factors like the design of a career structure, the physical shape of a building etc.

5. Conflict is internal to the nature of change.

6. Conflict is not only inevitable but sometimes desirable.

A minimum level of conflict is optimal. In the words of S.P. Robbins while the behavioural approach accepted conflict, the integrationist view encourages conflict on grounds that a harmonious, peaceful, tranquil and cooperative group is prone to becoming static, apathetic, and non-responsive to needs for change and innovation.

Conflict Meaning – Sources: Differentiation, Task Relationships and Scarcity of Resources

Conflict may be defined as a situation when the goal directed behaviour of one group blocks the goal directed behaviour of another.

The sources of conflict are traced as follows:

i. Differentiation

ii. Task relationships and

iii. Scarcity of resources.

Source # i. Differentiation:

In this process of differentiation, authority and responsibilities are subdivided and hierarchical structure comes into existence. It gives rise to differences in goals among different interests groups within organizations and it is quite obvious and evident to employees.

There are two main reasons for this conflict:

a. Differences in Subunit Orientations:

Each group or subunit in a company develops a unique orientation towards organization’s major priorities. Goals of different departments also vary. For example, production function has short term orientation, i.e., cost reduction and increasing sales. R&D department has long-term orientation and they set technical goal for R&D. Such different orientations of sub units make strategy implementation tough and slow down company’s response to changes in the competitive environment and reduce its level of integration.

At divisional level, cash cow divisions emphasize marketing goals whereas star performers opt for new technical possibilities. Divisions find it difficult to bring in synergy, cohesion and integration among divisions and disagreements do a lot of harm, very often. Different divisions find it difficult to view similar problems the same way.

b. Status Inconsistencies:

In enterprises that adopt differentiation strategy, some functions are considered to be more important than others and such functions try to block the goals of all other departments. Production function often assumes much significance and it leads to line and staff conflict. At divisional level, some divisions like new product development divisions assume more significance and transfer price may be the starting point for fighting against other departments. There is a need to handle divisions carefully.

Source # ii. Task Relationships:

Independent task relationships may create conflict among functions and divisions.

a. Overlapping Authority:

The conflict arises when one task comes under the responsibility of two functions or divisions. Similarly, as the organization grow and the divisions have to share resources and facilities to control costs, conflict surfaces regarding control of resources and facilities.

b. Task Interdependencies:

When functions are interdependent and the work-in-process moves horizontally from one function to another, there is potential for conflict. Higher the level of interdependence, the higher is the potential for conflict among functions and divisions. When one function does not perform well, then, the next function will be seriously obstructed in its work, the conflict arises consequently.

In related diversification, resource sharing and resource transfers are continuously handled and the conflict is continuously dealt with. In unrelated diversification, where resource sharing and resource transfer is not found, potential for conflict is minimum.

c. Incompatible Evaluation System:

Incompatible performance evaluation system will lead to internal conflicts. The complex and intertwined task relationship makes it difficult to evaluate the contribution of each function. So, a company has to design its evaluation and reward system in such a way that they do not interfere with task relationship between functions and divisions.

Source # iii. Scarcity of Resources:

Competition over scarce resources create conflicts among divisions and between divisions. For instance, when capital is scarce, there will be rivalry over budget allocation. Division’s resist when their profit are transferred to other needed divisions. In addition stakeholders are interested to know the way company allocates resources judiciously. Conflicts of one type or other are always present in the strategic decision making process.

Conflict Meaning – 5 Stages

There are five stages in conflict episode as given by Pondy.

Stage 1:

Latent ConflictIt is a stage in which the conflict has not taken a shape. It may occur in sub conscious mind.

Some of the an­tecedents that establish conditions from which conflict can develop are:

i. Competition for scarce resources

ii. Communication barriers causing distorted information

iii. Divergence among submit goals and methods of work

iv. Role ambiguities.

Stage 2:

Perceived Conflict – It occurs because of the misunderstanding of the parties caused by the lack of communication. Such a conflict can be resolved by improving communication between the parties.

Stage 3:

Felt Conflict – Felt conflict differs from perceived conflict. Mr. X may have serious difference with Mr. Y over some issue. But this may not make Mr. X tenses or anxious and it may have no effect on Mr. X’s affection towards Mr. Y. It makes them feel the conflict. It is the personalisation of differences that causes conflict. For example, conflict become personalised when the whole personality of the individual is involved in the relationship.

Stage 4:

Manifest Conflict – In this stage two parties to the conflict show a variety of conflictful behaviour such as open aggression, withdrawal, apathy, sabotage etc. The motives towards violence may remain, but they tend to be expressed in less violent forms. Violence as a form of manifest conflict is rare.

Stage 5:

Conflict Aftermath – Attempts are made to resolve the con­flict through conflict resolution mechanism and the conflict may be suppressed or resolved depending on the nature of conflict resolution mechanism. If conflict is suppressed, the latent conditions of conflict may be aggravated and exploded in a more serious form. But if the conflict is resolved, a basis for cooperative behaviour is established between the parties.

Conflict Meaning – 6 Major Causes

Conflict is the existence of opposition or dispute and antagonistic or hostile interaction among groups or between persons. Conflicts are created by a variety of causes.

However, there are six major causes or conditions leading to conflicts:

1. Competition for Scarce Resource:

Conflicts between the parties may develop when the resources such as budget funds, space, supplies, personnel, office services, etc., are scarce and therefore more important to the rival parties. For example, two departments demand priority to utilise common office services like data processing or duplicating.

2. Task Interdependence:

When the two parties or two departments are interdependent for supplies, information, direction or help and there is greater need to co-ordinate their activities, we may come across conflicts between them. For instance, conflicts may develop between sales and production, sales and purchase (in the case of wholesale trade), purchase and production, or between production department and research and development department.

3. Jurisdictional Ambiguity:

Many a time, boundary or range of powers and duties may be unclear and we may come across overlapping responsibility. Under such circumstances, in absence of clear cut and precise area of operation, conflicts may develop between two parties or departments.

4. Status Problem:

Status is the degree of respect and prestige a person is given in the status hierarchy. When members do not agree about status hierarchy, they are frustrated and become resentful. Each person tries to protect or improve his position and conflicts may develop due to status discrepancies.

Line and staff conflicts are mainly due to status problems. Inequitable rewards, job assignments, working conditions and status symbols are other types of status conflicts. We may have conflicts between persons receiving fewer benefits and those receiving better and superior benefits. A department of higher status would resent when it is called upon to abide by the instructions coming from a low status department in an organisation.

5. Insufficient and Defective Communication:

Inadequate communication prevents effective co­ordination of efforts and activities. Language difficulties and selective interpretation can create and develop misunderstandings of the messages. Conflicts due to want of proper communication or due to any communication gap or barrier can be reduced or even eliminated by effective communication network.

6. Individual Traits:

When both the parties are dogmatic (with closed minds) and autocratic, they are bound to disagree and they cannot discover any common ground to arrive at a mutual agreement. When members in an organisation have different social and political values, sooner or later conflicts are bound to develop.

Conflict Meaning – 6 Common Methods Used for Managing Conflict

Modern business organization are complex organizations. The smooth running of business, is not an easy task. It requires effective and efficient planning, coordinating efforts, and effective control from both the management and employees.

Moreover attainment of organizational objectives and goals are also not easy. A desirable, suitable organization structure is required for the attainment of objectives. All the employees of the organization has to work hard.

Despite all their efforts, the conflicting situations may arise at any time in the organization due to difference of opinion, internal or external forces may affect adversely and may cause hurdle in the smooth running of business organization. Thus organizational conflicts are unavoidable and indispensable.

Conflict is a one of the features of the modern complex organization, immediately the cognizance of it should be taken. Promptly these conflicts should be handled, settled and redressed. The conflicts may arise because of unpredictable behaviour and attitude of the individuals in the organization.

Methods for Managing Conflict:

Given the right opportunity and motivation all conflict can be resolved but not always to the satisfaction of all parties. The effect of disagreement and the methods for resolution depend on how conflict is managed by the participants.

The following are some common methods that can help to effectively manage conflict:

i. Third Party Intervention:

Using this strategy requires a third party that is unbiased and is not taking sides to support either party in conflict. The third party may be known or unknown to the parties involved or may even be from a different location.

Some assumptions in using a third party are:

(1) The third party is trusted or respected by participants.

(2) The third party is an expert, has knowledge or is competent to give a decision about the issue(s) in dispute.

(3) The third party has the power or authority to rule over the decision.

ii. Suppression:

“We all get along here”, “we run a happy ship”, “don’t rock the boat”, and “nice people don’t fight”, are the voices of suppression. People who use suppression play down their differences in a belief it is better to “go along to get along.”

iii. Power or Dominance:

Power is often used to settle differences. The source of power may be physical, or vested by authority or position. Power strategies, however, result in a win-lose situation. In other words, in order for somebody to gain something, somebody else has to lose something. Normally the loser will not support the final decision in the same way as the winner, and may even attempt to sabotage the decision.

iv. Integration or Collaboration:

This approach requires all parties in a conflict situation to recognize the legitimate abilities and expertise of each other in the process of resolution. This method attempts to find an acceptable solution that does not necessarily require giving and getting as in a compromised solution. The group problem solving concept is considered the optimum form of managing conflict because it encourages a common search for creative alternatives to resolve the conflict that is rewarding to all parties.

v. Denial or Avoidance:

With this approach, individuals attempt to reduce or get rid of the conflict by denying it exists, both parties shun each other or dodge the issue of disagreement.

vi. Compromise or Negotiation:

Compromise and negotiation are often regarded as virtues in our culture. Compromise is an agreement between parties about what each should give or get in a particular situation. “You give a little, and I’ll give a little so we can meet each other halfway”, is a way we have been taught to get along with others.

It is believed all parties will profit from the compromise or at least have a feeling of being treated fairly. Negotiation reaches an impasse when one or all participants become set in what they are willing to give and limits have been reached. The compromise, therefore, would allow all parties to reach an agreement with which all would be somewhat satisfied or rewarded.

(4) All parties involved will accept the decision of the third party.

(5) All parties believe a just and fair decision will be rendered.

Conflict Meaning – Top 4 Important Conflict Stimulating Strategies

Organisational conflicts are not necessarily bad. They may be constructive or destructive for the organisation. Hence, conflicts, which are conductive to the organisation, should be stimulated while those likely to yield negative results should be suppressed, avoided or resolved.

Constructive conflicts bring healthy competition, attacks lethargy and stagnation and sets in new ideas and innovations. Conflicts should be stimulated when people have become passive, lack disagreement and accept everything without resistance and the organisation needs activity and novelty to face new challenges.

Followings are some important conflict stimulating strategies as suggested by S.P. Robbins:

1. Communication

2. Restructuring organisation

3. Bringing in outsiders

4. Promoting competition

1. Communication – Managers can stimulate conflicts by manipulating facts. Ambiguous or threatening messages encourage conflict. Intelligently planted rumours through grapevine can also be used to stimulate conflicts.

2. Restructuring organization – Careful reshuffling in the organisation structure, i.e., departments-authority relations, duties, responsibilities, resources etc., may also create organisational conflicts, leading to innovation.

3. Bringing in outsiders – In organisation, which have become stagnant, a conflict may be introduced by bringing in new people whose background, attitudes, values and managerial styles are significantly different. Their innovative ideas, divergent opinions, demonstration of new styles and techniques will shake up the organisation and break its status quo.

4. Promoting competition – Encouraging competition among people is also an excellent device for constructive conflicts. Introduction of productivity linked bonus schemes, incentive plans and prestigious awards may encourage competitive spirit among people and which may lead to better efficiency and performance.

Conflict Meaning – Preventive Measures

Some of the preventive measures that the management can take are as follows:

1. Establishing common goals – The major cause of conflict in the organisation is the incompatible goals. These conflicts can be reduced by establishing common goals. The groups can be mutually dependent through subordinate goals. These goals are significant to the group and appeal to all the parties. The conflicting parties cooperate with each other and work together in order to achieve subordinate goals. The incentive system can also be designed to reward the group activities which contribute to the organisational objectives as opposed to activities which primarily serve their own interests.

2. Reducing interdependence – Another reason for intergroup conflict is the sharing of the scarce resources by the groups. The resources cannot always be increased. Thus, the best alternative is the optimum allocation of scarce resources among the groups, thereby reducing interdependence on account of sharing of resources.

3. Trust and communication – The greater the trust among the group members, more honest they will be. Individuals and groups should be encouraged to communicate with each other to remove their misunderstandings and appreciate the problems of each other when required.

4. Rotation of personnel – Since the departments are interdependent, rotation of employees between departments can improve their understanding of the other’s position. They may visualize the things in a broader perspective. Employees become more considerate and cooperative and think beyond the departmental interests.

5. Reorganisation of groups – A manger can prevent many interpersonal conflicts by reorganising the groups. People with common interests and objectives and same perspective will be placed in the same group. The behaviour of members of such groups is quite predictable and it is easy for the organisation to avoid conflicts.

Conflict Meaning – Advantages and Disadvantages


Some optimum level of conflict is necessary for progress and productivity, but conflict also has a cost. Thug, conflict which supports the goals of a group and also improves its performance is referred to as functional conflict. On the other hand, conflict that obstructs the performance of a group is dysfunctional form of conflict.

The functional aspects or advantages of conflict are as follows:

(i) Analytical thinking – When faced with a conflict, the group displays creativity in identifying various alternatives. People tend to put forward more imaginative solutions. Thus, conflict compels people to think who otherwise might have been passive. Thus, conflict promotes better decision making and helps individuals to learn and grow in an organisation.

(ii) Reduction of tension – People express their tension and frustration by means of conflict. When members express themselves, they get psychological satisfaction leading to stress reduction. Conflict, thus, provides an opportunity for releasing tension which might otherwise remain suppressed.

(iii) Group cohesiveness – Intergroup conflict brings cohesiveness in the group members. Members develop group loyalty in order to compete with the pressure of the conflicting situation. As cohesiveness increases, members forget their differences and cooperate with each other.

(iv) Facing challenges – Conflict improves the capabilities of the individuals as they learn to identify and evaluate various alternatives. It provides challenges for them for which they have to be creative and dynamic. If they are able to meet these challenges successfully, they feel confident and highly motivated.

(v) Organisational change – Conflict leads to change in attitudes and mind-set of the individuals and they are forced to think. They may willingly adapt themselves to the changed circumstances. Conflict, thus, stimulates change among the people.

(vi) Increased awareness – Conflict creates awareness about the existing problems and their solutions. All group members get involved in the problem and the methods adopted to sort out the problem. This leads to efficiency and increase in productivity in the organisation.

(vii) Identification of weaknesses – When the conflict arises, it is easy to identify the weaknesses in the organisational set-up. Management can take steps to remove these weaknesses once they are identified.


The conflict which hinders the achievement of the goals of the group is called as dysfunctional conflict.

The main drawbacks or disadvantages of conflicts are as follows:

(i) Increased tension – Conflict can cause tension among members if the management fails to resolve the conflict. This results in anxiety, uncertainty, frustration and hostility among group members. During the period of conflict, an individual cannot perform his job properly. Apart for this, there is a continuous struggle among the members to win in the conflict.

(ii) Climate of distrust – Conflict creates a climate of distrust and suspicion in the organisation. The members develop negative feeling towards each other and avoid interaction. This reduces cohesiveness among the group members.

(iii) Goal conflict – Conflict distracts the group members from achieving the organisational goals. The conflicting members waste their time and energy and spend time in finding ways and means to emerge as winners in the conflict. Winning in the conflict is more important than working for organisational goals.

(iv) Decrease in productivity – Conflict results in dissatisfaction among group members losing in the conflict. This results in less concentration on the job and as a result adversely affects the productivity of the group.

(v) High employee turnover – In case of inter-individual conflicts, some dynamic staff may leave the organisation if the conflict is not resolved in their favour. This will result in loss to the organisation in the long run in terms of efficient employees.

(vi) Disequilibrium – The contribution of the employees do not match the consideration (salary) that they get. In the event of conflict, the contribution of an individual declines while the consideration remains at its previous level. Thus, the presence of conflict creates a disequilibrium which is not healthy for the organisation.

Thus, it can be concluded that conflict offers both opportunities as well as costs. However, the cost of conflict is borne by both the individuals and the organisation. If the management fails to handle the conflict efficiently at an early stage, it can weaken the organisation and lead to unnecessary troubles later on.