Functional and Dysfunctional Conflicts in Institutional Change


Organizational conflict is inevitable because workers have different interests, perceptions, values, needs, and understanding about the way work should be done. Conflict is a natural part of working places and takes many forms with varying impacts on individuals as well as the firm’s productivity. Notably, institutional conflict can be classified into functional and dysfunctional. While the former perspective is constructive, the latter is destructive since it threatens the company’s structure and stability. Therefore, effective organizational conflict management strategies are vital in ensuring smooth and healthy operations. Assessing the cause of skirmishes within companies and the role of functional and dysfunctional conflicts is instrumental in recommending appropriate resolutions.

Cause of Conflicts within Organizations and Contribution of Individual Perception and Differences

Some of the reasons why conflict occurs in workplaces include poor communication, different personalities, unclear job expectations and roles, bullying and harassment, poor work habits, and resistance to change. Ineffective communication is the major contributor to conflicts among employees (Windon & Stollar, 2020). The issue can arise from different styles used by individuals to convey messages or failure to communicate. For instance, a supervisor can reassign the job to another worker and fail to communicate the employee’s changes, which can transpire animosity between the two members of staff. Also, poor communication facilitates incorrect assumptions among the employees and decreases their morale and productivity.

Employees’ backgrounds and experiences have a significant role in shaping their personalities. Therefore, failure to understand or accept the other worker’s character can cause problems in workplaces. For instance, employees with straightforward personalities may be offensive to co-workers without such a trait because they speak what is in their minds, making them perceived as rude. Workers are only given an overview of responsibilities in most organizations (Windon & Stollar, 2020). They are not aware of what the managers expect of them and end up trying to guess what their supervisors’ anticipations are. Thus, they may lose confidence and become defensive when they are unsure how they need to perform.

Some employees can inappropriately utilize their position in an institution to intimidate and harass others. Harassments such as verbal provocation, unwelcomed sexual advances, and physical conduct are also reasons for organizational conflicts (Windon & Stollar, 2020). Skirmishes in workplaces are inevitable when certain employees are chronically late, fail to complete their tasks, express anger and negativity about others, and are disorganized. Equally, changes in working schedules and positions within a company may be unwelcome to individuals unflavored by the alterations.

Personal differences and perceptions can contribute to institutional conflict in varying ways. Dissimilar values and personality among workers can cause misunderstanding and adversely affect their relationships. Notably, values comprise people’s stable life goals that reflect what is most important to them. McShane (2020) indicates that individuals’ values influence decisions, their behaviors, and the way they perceive their environment. Equally, thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns determine choices made by people. Therefore, a high possibility is that conflict occurs between workers with different values. Diverse perception causes conflict in organizations because of varied detection and interpretation of environmental stimuli. Accommodating one another’s differences can significantly prevent conflict in workplaces.

Role of Dysfunctional Conflict in Institutional Change

Dysfunction conflicts in organizations occur when few or more employees have competing ambitions. The conflict is unhealthy because it hurts individuals as well as the company’s productivity. Such factors characterize it as increased tension and dissatisfaction, distrust, high employee turnover, and distraction from organizational goals (Windon & Stollar, 2020). Notably, tension can lead to hostility, uncertainty, frustrations, and anxiety among a team of workers. Some employees may opt to leave an organization if an implemented resolution is not in their favor, while others avoid interaction with those they believe benefited. Companies may suffer great losses in such an environment unless they design and implement policies for preventing and resolving dysfunctional conflicts. The strategies may lead to institutional changes such as culture, creating new teams, and altering roles and responsibilities. Indeed, the organizational changes associated with dysfunctional conflict focus on managing the adverse impacts of the latter.

Role of Functional Conflict in Institutional Change

Functional conflict in organizations is productive since it allows employees to learn, develop, and enhance their creativity and problem-solving skills. The clash among team members is associated with the discussion of alternative decisions and analytical thinking. Remarkably, companies adopt workgroups to get varying ideas and perspectives that are crucial for decision-making. Tension may arise as the members share experiences and opinions and debate the relative advantages and disadvantages of different options (Windon & Stollar, 2020). Nevertheless, they remain impersonal ad eventually agree upon an optimal choice. Functional conflict also promotes healthy competition among workers, leading to creativity and innovation because fresh ideas are generated as members become aware of their roles and discuss another course of action. Therefore, the conflict leads to strategic transformational changes such as the introduction of inventive technology training on new skills. It can also lead to remedial changes, including developing and implementing policies dealing with the loss of talent, providing more training for new employees, and addressing customer communication issues. Thus, well-managed functional conflict can enhance an institution’s productivity and growth.

Possible Conflict Resolution Strategy Organizational Leadership Could Use With Dysfunctional Conflict

Arbitration is the possible resolution strategy that institutional leadership can adopt with dysfunctional conflict. Pfajfar et al. (2019) indicate that irrational personality clashes can lead to unnecessary delays in crucial projects if they are unresolved. However, managers can impose a solution in such skirmishes after listening to the conflicting parties (Windon & Stollar, 2020). The main objective of the approach is to have the organization win rather than deciding who wins. Therefore, managers should pick a solution that allows all parties to feel that they have not been disadvantaged.

Possible Conflict Resolution Strategy That Organizational Leadership Could Use With Functional Conflict

Creating an environment of trust that ensures all workers are conformable in addressing concerns with the management and with themselves is a resolution that organizational leadership can use with functional conflict. Notably, leaders’ approach determines whether a functional conflict leads to fruitless or peaceful and productive resolution. Workplace settings can also influence employees’ perceptions and behaviors as they discuss different alternatives to an issue. Organizational leadership should ensure effective communication among team members and across departments (Windon & Stollar, 2020). Additionally, they should set policies that discourage negative criticism of one’s thoughts and ideas about an issue. As a result, they would not fear communicating their perspectives, promoting personal growth, innovation, and creativity.


Conflicts in organizations are unavoidable because of personal and institutional factors. Functional and dysfunctional conflicts in companies are caused by poor communication and working habits, unclear job expectations and roles, bullying and harassment, and different personalities. While strategies to resolve dysfunctional conflict lead to institutional changes such as culture, creation of new teams, and alteration of roles and responsibilities, functional conflict causes transformational and remedial organizational change.


McShane, S. (2020). Organizational behavior (9th ed.). McGraw-Hill.

Pfajfar, G., Shoham, A., Makovec Brenčič, M., Koufopoulos, D., Katsikeas, C., & Mitręga, M. (2019). Power source drivers and performance outcomes of functional and dysfunctional conflict in exporter–importer relationships. Industrial Marketing Management, 78, 213-226. Web.

Windon, S., & Stollar, M. (2020). Conflict styles, outcomes, and handling strategies. Penn State Extension. Web.

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