Conflicts in Organizational Behaviour


What are Conflicts?

In simple words, Conflicts may be understood as collision or disagreement. The Conflicts may be within an individual when there is the incompatibility between his own goals or events; may be between two individuals, when one does not see eye to eye with another, and in the process tries to block or frustrate the attempts of another; or between two groups in an organization.
Chung and Megginson define Conflicts as ―the struggle between incompatible or opposing needs, wishes, ideas, interests, or people. Conflicts arises when individuals or groups encounter goals that both parties cannot obtain satisfactorily.‖ Though intrapersonal Conflicts is not made explicit in the definition, the first sentence implies intra-individual Conflict as well.

Functional and Dysfunctional Conflicts

 Functional Conflicts refers to the confrontation between two ideas, goals and parties that improve employees and the organization‘s performance. Well, managed Conflicts helps workers anticipate and solve problems, feel confident, strengthen their relationships, and be committed to the organization. Constructive Conflict is crucial for the effective functioning of organizations. Specifically, potential benefits of Conflict are the following:
Conflicts increase awareness of what problems exist, who is involved, and how to solve the problem.Conflict motivates organizational members to consider problems. They are energized and psychologically focused on the problems and motivated to put plans into action.
Conflicts promote change. Persons are more aware of injustices, inefficiencies, and frustrations, and see the need to correct them. Conflict enhances morale and cohesion. Organizational members deal with and clear up their frustrations and resentments. They conclude that their relationships are strong enough to withstand stress and to handle difficulties. They also learn about each other‘s needs, styles, and values through Conflict. High-quality decisions result when persons express their opposing views and perspectives. They share their information and check each other‘s reasoning to develop new decisions.
Conflicts stimulate interest and creativity. Being in Conflict often sparks curiosity and stimulates viewing problems from several perspectives and combining the best of these positions to form a creative solution. Conflict is exciting as people learn about what makes them and others angry, frustrated, and willing to fight.
Reichers (1986) defined Conflict as the perceived incompatibility between one goal, value or need and another goal, value or need. This definition shows that Conflict may exist within the same persons or between a person and another entity.

Types of Conflicts

The conflict has been classified in different ways. Following are the some of the classifications.

Realistic and Non-Realistic

Realistic Conflict arises when participants clash in the pursuit of claims and expectation of gain. It is viewed as a means towards the achievement of specific goals, a means that might be abandoned if other means appear to be more effective. Non-realistic Conflict arises from aggressive impulses that seek expression no matter what the object, allows no functional alternative of means. Since it is not aimed at the attainment of a concrete result but at the expression of aggressive impulses. Ex. Scope goating i.e. the object of attack is secondary to the dispositional need for attack.

Inter Psychic and Psychosocial Conflict

Inter-psychic Conflict exists within an individual when he feels drawn to two or more divergent desires or actions. (Ex : Alkohol and be healthy) Psychosocial Conflict exists between people or between a person and a group and is present when a person must choose in favor of one course of action, at the expense of an equally desirable course of action (Ex. Personal goals at the expense of groups goals)

Conflict of interest and Conflict of understanding

 Conflict of interest is present when parties involved in Conflict share the same understanding of the situation but prefers a different and incompatible solution to a problem. Conflict of understanding occurs when parties involved in Conflict do not share the same conceptualization of the situation. This may occur because of divergent ideologies, cultures, values or cognitive structures.Intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, inter-organizational and revolutionary Conflict.

Intra-individual conflict:

The intra-individual conflict involves frustration, goal conflict, and role conflict and ambiguity. Frustration occurs when goal-directed behavior is blocked. Goal conflict occurs when a goal has both positive and negative features or when an individual has two or more competing goals thus blocking, one another. 3 types of goal conflict are generally identified.

Approach :

Approach conflict, where the individual is motivated to approach two or more positive but mutually exclusive goals. Approach – avoidance conflict, where a single goal has both positive and negative characteristics and an individual is motivated to approach and avoid it at the same time. This has relevance to the analysis of organizational behavior.


Avoidance conflict, where the individual is motivated to avoid two or more negative but mutually exclusive goals.
Role conflict and ambiguity arises as an individual is expected to play various roles and a clash therefrom.

Interpersonal conflict

Interpersonal conflict arises from personal differences, information deficiency, role incompatibility and environmental stress.

Organizational conflict :

 Intra-individual, interpersonal and intergroup conflicts, are all inherent in organizational conflict the very nature of the structure of organization also give rise to conflict. In a classical organization, there are four types of structural conflict.

Hierarchical conflict:

Hierarchical Conflicts exists between various levels of the hierarchy of the organization like a board of director and top management, middle management with supervising personnel, management vs. Workers.

Functional conflict

Functional conflict exists between various functional departments like marketing, personnel, financial, etc.

Line – staff conflict


Informal conflict exists between formal and informal organizations :
In modern organization also this structural conflict exists, an example may be project and matrix organizations. In projects, managers are given responsibility but no authority, leading to conflict while a manager in matrix organization may have a projecting boss and a functional boss leading to conflict.
Inter-organizational conflict arises from the macro business environment when organizations compete for market share. Revolutionary conflict is the most dramatic form of conflict in the complex organization and has its generous in revolutionary movements that challenge the very legitimacy of the organization. This is different from other kinds of conflict that it does not ask for a greater share of the scarce resources but they demand that all the resources be redistributed to the new organization and that the old systems cease to exist.

5. Bargaining, Bureaucratic and Systems Conflict

Bargaining conflict among the interest groups in competition for scarce resources, this is appropriate for the analysis of labor-management relations, budgeting processes, and staff-line conflicts.

Levels of Conflict

There are three levels of conflict in organizational life:
  • Intra-individual conflict.
  • Inter-individual conflict.
  • Inter-group conflict



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