Conflict in an Organizational Set Up


Conflict is simply defined as the friction between two parties that may compose of people or some forces. It may also be composed of different entities. In other terms, conflict can also be defined as a way of coming into a fight or a disagreement or to contradict. There are many types of conflicts that are categorized depending on the environment of the application. Examples of categorized conflicts include conflict narrative, group conflict, workplace conflict, controversy, organizational conflict, emotional conflict among others. The conflict has also found its usage in games, music, computer science, and transportation. This paper discusses the conflict in an organizational setup.

Conflict in Organizations

Also known as organizational conflict, this is a state in which two particular forces within an organization, contradict in interests and needs. The forces in question are those people who are working together. Thus, the conflict may arise between the formal authority in the organization and those workers who have been affected. In any given organization, there are different forms in which conflict can take. For instance, a dispute may arise concerning the distribution of revenues and the time a worker should take to perform an assigned duty. Organizational conflicts can also arise between departments and even between the worker’s unions and the management of a given company. In addition, workers can still disagree with themselves because of competing needs and particular demands. It should be noted that the response to any conflict is different from one worker to another.

The Sources of Conflict

Conflicts usually emanate from the individuals involved. Conflict begins with someone or something violating an individual’s comfort zone (Cowan 2003). Each individual defines their comfort zones by erecting limits on what they perceive to be acceptable, allowable safe experiences and behaviors. Therefore, any instance that invades or acts as a threat to their comfort zone, or demands that they move beyond the limits of their comfort zones will attract a conflict (Cowan 2003). Thus, an individual’s first awareness of conflict comes from the feelings that are produced when the comfort zone is violated. The core of the matter is that people differ because they have different opinions on different issues.

Personal Conflict

When an individual in an organization is faced with a personal conflict, the organization cannot step in to alleviate the condition. This means that the individual must do their inner work and deal with those personality problems that create the conflict. This is because the difficulties are beyond the management’s ability. The management cannot act as a personal professional counselor. However, there are some conflicts of personality that the management of an organization is expected to understand and provide guidance accordingly. This is because human behavior is inseparable from the environment surrounding their livelihood.

Role Conflict

This kind of conflict relates to the role an individual plays in any particular organization. A particular emphasis is given to the multiple roles the worker plays in the organization. Since an organization is a system of position roles, each worker is categorically placed in a particular role set. A role set is a group of individuals within an association, who share independent responsibilities or roles. They, therefore, undertake similar definite roles. The power of the organization can create a conflict between the roles set because every individual would want a fellow individual in the same role set to perform the duties to particular expectations.

Effects of Organizational Conflict

The effects of organizational conflict can either be negative or positive. In an organization, the positive effects of conflicts are incumbent to promote the smooth running of the firm. From a positive point of view, organizational controversies should increase the ability to deal with the problem between the affected workers. These controversies can act as catalysts or motivations to work towards innovations and change. Conflict should therefore be connected to productivity in a way that personal attributes should be improved during conflict resolutions. The effects of conflict on individual and organizational self-esteem are determined by the level of competence they bring to its management and resolution. Organizations should let employees manage conflict amongst themselves to increase the levels of self-esteem for both individuals and the organization while at the same time increasing effectiveness and productivity (Cowan 2003).

Functions and Dysfunctions of Conflict

The conflict has its useful functions as well as its dysfunctions. The positive effects of conflicts include promoting loyalty within the group. Since conflict causes groups and organizations to rise against each other, there is the hidden aspect of unity within each group and organization (sociology guide 2010). This is exemplified by the incumbency of working together against a common enemy. By doing this, rivalries within the group submerge thereby bringing harmony to the organization. Conflict can also be a tool for recognizing problems thereby enhancing the development of new ways of solving those problems. Conflict also enhances the consolidation of small weaker groups to form larger and stronger forces. This permits the creation of organizations such as unions that fight for workers’ rights (sociology guide 2010).

The dysfunctions of conflicts include the divisiveness that is usually accompanied by its presence. The divisiveness usually causes a drop in production. Employees usually take advantage of weak management by disrespecting it. Conflict also causes a lack of direction and fragmentation of the organization to occur (Root 2010). Other negative effects of conflicts include the lack of new ideas and the drop in quality of work.

My View on Conflict

I view conflict mainly as functional. This is because of the positive effects that form its accompaniments. The unification process caused by conflicts brings about loyalty within a group. Conflict also enhances the social change and contributes to taking society to higher levels of social integration.

Conflict Management in an Organization

The mechanics of conflict management are the tools people use to turn a perfectly natural event into a positive growth-producing income. This is the reason why conflict is described as the natural process by which people mediate all their differences (Cowan 2003). The consequences of an unmanaged or poorly managed conflict are disproportionately larger than the conflict itself. Thus, it is prudent enough not to dismiss a conflict because we don’t think it requires our attention. In the realm of conflict, the adage ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is very important (Cowan, 2003: 29). Many managers are therefore faced with the win-win or lose-lose results of a conflict settlement. These dynamics of conflict are usually taken carefully because a well-managed conflict equals positive change and personal growth. Thus, when conflict management is carefully executed, the organization benefits from increased individual and group effectiveness and high levels of productivity.

Examples of Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict I Have Experienced

One of the most unforgettable experiences I have ever had on conflict was during the first year of my undergraduate studies. This young man called Fred was known by every school member to heed very few instructions. Fred was a bully and it seemed like we were to live with that for the four years in my undergraduate studies. I once found myself on the wrong side when I tried to defend one of my acquaintances against his fury. My friend was walking along the pavements when he accidentally hit Fred head-on. When I went to confront Fred, I was given a punch that sent me to the opposite side of the wall. I will never forget the embarrassment of that day. This is just one of the examples of the negative effects of a conflict. On the other hand, when our first-year class was taking on the second year in the interclass soccer competition, I had a sudden change of perspective on Fred. In this particular match, I witnessed Fred score two decisive goals that ended the match in a 3-2 win against the second year. I found myself cheering the new hero of the match having forgotten what he had done to me a few weeks before. It is thus clear from this story how conflict can unify people against a common enemy.


Conflict is the friction between two parties. In organizations, a conflict can arise between the management and the employees, among the management, and between employees. The sources of conflict are usually from individuals or groups. Conflict arises because of differing opinions between the two parties. An individual’s first awareness of conflict comes from the feelings that are produced when the comfort zone is violated. Conflict can either be advantageous or disadvantageous to an organization. The advantages of conflict include unifying individuals in the same role set as well as integration of smaller weaker groups into larger and stronger groups like workers’ unions. Disadvantages of conflict include weaker management and a drop in quality and quantity of production.

Reference List

Cowan, D. (2003). Taking Charge of Organizational Conflict. California: Personhood press.

Root, G. (2010). Negative Effects of Conflict within an Organization. Web.

Sociology guide (2010). Useful Functions of Conflict: Basic Concepts of Sociology Guide. Web.

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