After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Concept of Organisational Conflict 2. Stages of Organisational Conflict 3. Classes 4. Sources 5. Resolution.

Concept of Organisational Conflict:

Organisational conflict is a disagreement between two or more organisation members or groups arising from the fact that they must share scarce resources or work activities and/or from the fact that they have different statuses, goals, values or perceptions.

Organisation members or sub- units in disagreement, attempt to have their own cause or point of view prevail over that of others. Conflicts may be at individual level, group level and at organisational level. Conflicts affect the work efficiency of the individual and of the group; as a result productivity is reduced.

Stages of Organisational Conflict:

Organisational conflict can be more readily understood if it is considered as dynamic process. Process here indicates a series of events. Each conflict is made up of a sequence of inter-locking conflict episodes.


Five stages of a conflict episode may be identified as:

1. Latent conflict:

Latent conflict provides the necessary antecedent conditions for conflict in organisation. Here participants only anticipate conflict.

Four basic types of latent conflicts are:


a. Competition for scarce resources,

b. Drive for autonomy,

c. Divergence of subunit goals, and

d. Role conflict.


2. Perceived conflict:

Perceived conflict is due to the parties’ misunderstanding of each other’s true position. Such a conflict can be resolved by improving communication between the parties.

3. Felt conflict:

A person X may be aware that he is in serious disagreement with Y over some policy. If this makes X tense and affects his relationship with Y then, the conflict is felt by the two. Conflict arises only after the differences become personalized or internalized (felt).


4. Manifest conflict:

This is the stage for open conflict. It takes the form of open aggression, sabotage, apathy, withdrawal etc.

5. Conflict aftermath:

The aftermath of a conflict may be either positive or negative for the organisation depending on how the conflict is resolved. If conflict is resolved to the satisfaction of all the parties involved, the basis for a more co­operative relationship may be laid. On the other hand, if the conflict is merely suppressed (but not resolved), the latent condition of conflict may be aggravated and explode in a more serious and violent form at a later stage.

Classes of Organisational Conflict:


Organisational conflicts may be classified as follows:

1. Individual conflict:

Intra Individual conflict is internal to the person and is probably the most difficult type to analyse non-satisfaction of needs frustrates an individual and it leads to behaviour that negatively affects job performance. When two individuals are in confrontation with each other, it may be said an inter-individual conflict. For example, two individuals competing for the same promotion may develop inter- individual conflict.

2. Group level conflict:


Conflicts at the group (formal and informal) level may be classified as:

i. Intragroup conflict arises when differences over an issue crop up between the members of the group. Such a conflict may divide the group into two further groups.

ii. Intergroup conflict. Every group is in at least partial conflict with every other group it interacts with. They differ in goals, work activities, power, prestige, resource allocation, reward systems etc.

3. Organisational conflict:


The inter-organisational conflicts are assumed between two organisations or between a business organisation and the government. The Intra-organisational conflicts comprise of all intra-individual, inter individual, intra-group and intergroup conflicts because they are the parts of the same organisation. Such conflicts may turn into hierarchical conflicts, line and staff conflicts, management versus shop floor conflicts, union versus union conflicts etc.

Sources of Organisational Conflict:

Sources of organisational conflict are found in some degree of actual or perceived divergence of interests. Conflict is rooted in a sharp incompatibility of interests. Any victory for one party means dissatisfaction or defeat for the other, thereby leading to a conflict. People disagree over facts, goals, methods and values because they have different interests and perceptions.

a. Facts:

Sometimes the disagreement occurs because individuals have different definitions of a problem, are aware of different pieces of relevant information etc.

b. Goals:

Sometimes the disagreement may be about what should and what should not be accomplished.


c. Methods:

Sometimes the disagreement may be about the procedures and strategies to follow to achieve the desired goal.

d. Values:

Sometimes the disagreement is over ethics, the way power should be exercised or assumptions about justice, fairness and so on.

Conflicts may arise due to economic, social and psychological reasons.

Psychological factors no doubt contribute predominantly. For instance, feeling of insecurity is a potent cause of tension and conflict. Conflicts may also arise due to lack of consideration, lack of appreciation, misunderstanding or bad handling of situation and problems.

Resolution of Organisational Conflicts:


Efforts for conflict management may be divided into two groups:-

(1) Preventive measures include:

(a) Development of effective leadership,

(b) Participative decision-making,

(c) Two-way communication system,

(d) Improvement in interpersonal relationship, and


(e) Revision for facilities and opportunities to develop informal groups.

(2) Curative measures:

The following steps must be taken in resolving a conflict which has already arisen:

(a) Dig full details of the conflict and note the stage of conflict (whether preliminary or advanced). More efforts are required to resolve a conflict of advanced stage.

(b) Issues involved in the conflict should be analysed and understood. Conflict may be due to facts, goals, methods or values.

(c) Then, the following conflict handling modes can be tried:


(i) Problem solving – May be done by the management or mutually by the parties involved in conflict.

(ii) Mediation through persuasion. Management may attempt to sweep out the differences and smoothen the affair.

(iii) Bargaining

(iv) Politics

(v) Letting the parties in conflict to settle their scores if they adopt a rigid attitude and do not see to the reason or appeal. This is the last resort if all other conflict handling modes fail.