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What are the different categories of conflict?

As managers spend a consideration amount of time in dealing with conflict situations, it is important for them
to understand the types of conflict so that they can find the appropriate techniques to deal with these conflicts.
The different categories of conflict are discussed in details below:

(1) Individual level conflict:

A conflict arises within and individual when his motives or drives are block or he is unable to take decision due
to being confronted with competing role and goals. There are some basic causes of conflict among
(a) Incomparability: an individual may not be able to take decisions though he is aware of the probability
distribution of the alternatives because the outcomes are incomparable. An individual can not take a decision
when the results can not be compared. In same way an individual could also be unable to make a comparison
between the different alternatives available. For making a comparison a technique of comparison is required
which includes assigning weight to different components, rationality in behavior and attitude and the
competence to perform the task. The process of comparison also depends on the clarity and the decisiveness
of the individual regarding the minimum standard of achievement. An individual can not make a comparison if
he lacks the clarity regarding the acceptance.
(b) Unacceptability: Individuals have some acceptable alternatives in terms of their goals and perceptions and
when the alternatives selected by the organizations are not satisfactory for him they become acceptable to
that individual. This unacceptability is subjective as some alternatives unacceptable to one may be acceptable
to others. When an individual finds the alternatives unacceptable, he searches for the alternatives that are
acceptable to him. This search continues but some times repeated failure to find acceptable alternatives may
lead to a redefinition of acceptable alternatives.
(c) Uncertainty: There is some uncertainty among the individuals regarding the external and internal
environment of the organization. The behavior of the people regarding the acceptability of the alternative and
effectiveness of the alternative could be determined with a certain level of certainty if the environment of the
organization could be depicted properly. In case of uncertainty, an individual may feel frustrated which could
ultimately be reflected in a conflict. There are a number of competing roles and goals within an individual and
usually there are three types of conflicts in an individual: Frustration, goal conflict and role conflict.
(i) Frustration is the high level of dissatisfaction which generates conflicts in an individual whenever an
individual is unable to do what he wants to do he becomes frustrated. In this way the motivated drives of
individuals are blocked before he reaches his goal. These blocks could be physical, psychological or social.
Frustration leads to a defense mechanism and this defense mechanism or outcome of frustration is broadly
classify under four heads: Aggression, withdrawal, fixation and compromise

(ii) Goal Conflict: The existence of two or more competing goals could be a cause of conflict in and individual.
The conflict caused by competing goals could have both positive and negative features. It occurs when two or
more motives block each other. This restricts an individual from taking a decision about the goal to be
achieved either due to the positive or the negative features present in the goals. Three types of goal conflicts
have been identified. These are: Approach-approach conflict, Approach avoidance conflict, Avoidanceavoidance approach.

(iii) Role conflict: An individual plays a number of roles in social and organizational situation but for the study
of organizational behavior, the roles which he brings to organization are the most important. Every individual
in the organization is expected to behave in a particular manner while performing a specific role. When the
expected role is different or opposite from the behavior anticipated by the individual in that role; conflict arises
because there is no way to meet one expectation without rejecting the other. In organizational setting
everyone plays the role of a superior and subordinate. Whenever there is a difference expectations in relation
to him and others, conflict ought to arise. Similarly, conflict may also arise whenever there is overlapping of
the two roles played simultaneously by the same person. For example a superior is reprimanding his
subordinate for the lapses and during this course his boss communicates with him. As he was so surcharged
with anger on his subordinate that he failed to leave his role as superior and adopt the role of subordinate with
the result that he lost temper with his boss also. This overlapping more often causes conflict to the individual
owing to role performance. The role conflict has been classified into four types. These are:

(i) Intra-sender role conflict: The intra-sender role conflict arises when a person is asked to do a job within
specified limits, which he is not capable of doing or time and resources are not sufficient to do the job. In this
case, the expectations from a single member of a role are incompatible.

(ii) Inter-sender role conflict: In inter-sender role conflict, the expectations sent from one sender may be in
conflict with those from one or more other senders.

(iii) Self-role conflict: Self role conflict occurs when a person is asked to do a job which is incompatible with his
own value system. For example a manager may be asked to get a job done by bribing some public officials
but his value system and conscience may not permit him to do so.

(iv) Inter role conflict: Inter role conflict when an individual occupies multiple and divergent roles
simultaneously and the expectations associated with these different roles are incompatible.

Every person holding a particular position in the organization is expected to behave in a particular manner.
This is known as the role expectation from that person. When the role expectations are not properly
communicated to the individuals, it may result in-Role ambiguity, role conflict and role overload.

(2). Interpersonal conflict: The conflict at inter-personal level involves two or more individuals and is the
most common and most recognized type of conflict. In a way all conflicts are interpersonal conflicts because
most of them involve a conflict between a person in one organization or a group and another person in some
other organization or a group. Every individual has a separate alternative course of action that is acceptable
to him and different individuals prefer different alternatives. Sometimes the organizations also create such
circumstances that two individuals find themselves in a situation of conflict. For example two mangers could
be competing for the limited capital or man power resources. The other type of conflict is the disagreement
over the goals and objectives of the organization. Four primary sources of interpersonal conflict are:
(i) Personal differences: This can be a major source of conflicts between individuals. Due to the difference in
the up bringing, culture, education, experience, values and traditions and the family background of the
individuals, an interpersonal conflict could arise.
(ii) Lack of Information: Another cause of inter-personal conflict could be the lack of information. This
information deficiency is often a result of the communication break down in an organization.
Role in compatibility: Role in compatibility could also be a source of conflict as in the present day interfunctional organizations many managers are assigned task which are inter dependent and the individuals
roles of these managers may be incompatible.
Stress: Environmental stress in an organization can also cause inter-personal conflict. Such a stress is
caused by a lack of resources, down sizing, competitive pressures and the high level of uncertainty among
the employees of organization.
The inter-personal conflicts usually get resolved by themselves because the parties at conflict are not in a
position to remain in a conflict for a long time. Time itself becomes a healing factor for the inter-personal
conflicts. In case of the persisting inter-personal conflicts, these can be resolved with the help of counseling,
effective communication and win-win negotiation. The management should look for the basic reason behind
conflict and try to resolve them quickly so that an atmosphere of mutual trust and openness could be created
and maintained in the organization.

(3) Group level conflict: There are two or more members in a group which has a well defined structure of
role and status relations and also have a system of values and norms of behavior. The groups not only affect
their members but have an impact on other groups and on the organization also. The members of a group
regularly interact with each other and during this process of interaction; two types of conflict can arise. Intragroup conflict or inter-group conflict.

Intra-group conflict arises when there are differences between the members of group themselves. The
members of a group may want to remain in the group but at the same time they may disagree with the
methods adopted by the group.

An intra-group conflict usually arises in the following three ways.

(i) when the group faces a new problem,
(ii) when new values are imported into the group from the social environment or
(iii) when the extra group role of a person comes into a conflict with his intra-group role.
The intra-group conflict is somewhat similar to the inter-person conflict and the only difference is that the
persons involved in the conflict are from a common group.

Inter-group conflict: The conflicts that take place between different groups in an organization are called intergroup conflicts. These conflicts may be caused by
(i) Absence of join decision making: Organization comprises of different groups. Each group puts its urgency
for having maximum share in the limited resources and press for the acceptance of its own time schedule for
the performance of a task. If the wishes of a group in respect of resources and time schedule are accepted,
justice cannot be done to other groups, which will ultimately lead to organizational ineffectiveness. Joint
decision making is the only solution to resolve the conflict. The conflicting parties may sit together and discuss
their own needs in the overall organizational perspective.
(ii) Difference in goals: Conflicts can also arise among different groups in an organization because of the
difference in their goals. The difference in the goals of the group is caused by (i) factors which affect the
commonality within the organization such as heterogeneity in groups, (ii) factors that the clarity and
consistency of reward structure and the comparability of reward structure.
(iii) Difference in perception: The difference in perception that can cause inter-group conflicts arises due to the
difference sources of information of different members, different techniques adopted for processing the
information and the difference in goals.
(4) Organization conflict
All the conflicts that have been discussed above relate to the conflicts within the organizational setting. Interorganizational conflicts take place between the organizations that are dependent on each other in some way.
The conflicts that take place at the individual level or the group level are all inherent in the organization level
conflict. Such a conflict could be between the buyer and the seller organization, between the government
agencies that regulate certain organizations and the organization that the affected by them or between the
unions of workers and their organization. The organization level conflict should be properly handled so that it
can play a constructive role in achieving the goals of the organization. It can act as a stimulus and provide a
challenge and motivational force to keep the organization moving.

Levels of conflict exist when diverse competency planning processes are not the commitment of team members in an
organization process, and when there is absence of trust. Diverse competency include organization practices of
communication that is both formal and informal cues and organization socialization acceptance in support
of members identity in the organization climate, and diversity competency in management include incentive
programs that increase workers status in the business and at home. At organizations where women are in corporate
boards, diversity competency goals are accomplished when first the company plans maternity leave of absences with
pay programs and on cite centers for childrens support, and second, when in management with ongoing womens
hire and promotion internally. When management for example seeks to limit organization funds to support diversity
programs in women management, levels conflicts can arise, and management can reason that the limits in the
companys input and output of resources, goods and services are negatively influenced by the lessened by limits in
consumer demand and bought company products in a recession, causing managements internal income limitations
in funds to supports diversity programs in women new hires, pay, and stocks. An intragroup conflict refers to
[disagreements] with some or all of a groups members [;] intergroup conflict occurs [with] groups of teams
(Organizational Behavior 2011, p. 406).

With the request in management to limit allocation of financial income to diversity programs that support women
mothers in management, women in management could experience an intragroup and intergroup conflict with
management teams, and request a virtual organization meeting to communicate an absence of trust and that limits in
income allocations to diversity programs negatively influences womens overload of work and at home, causing stress
in high performance planning goals. Women can react negatively to conflicts with absenteeism, late work completion,
and ongoing intraorganization tension with management. Women in management could limit communication with
managers refusing to support womens diversity programs with gestures cues of disapproval of management goals.
Women in management can work with management in conflict to support diversity programs in a recession with
actions that can support the companys revenue (quantity and price) in organization products and services, and
organization price index or changes in income and services and goals within a given year all to improve funds
available to support diversity programs in women retention in management. By calculating company price indexes
and finding the percentage of changes in income in a year to women in management not having diversity programs,
companies can thence request changes in their products price and quantity, to increase consumer demands and
spending that can lead to organization increased income to support diversity programs and women managers.

Levels of conflict

The level of conflict in organizational behavior varies between micro and macro level. At the micro level lies
the intraindividual conflict i.e. conflict occurring within an individual due to various reasons. This is the most
basic kind of conflict where an individual confronts no one but himself/herself.

Intraindividual conflict can arise due to following factors

a) Due to frustration Any sort of physical or mental obstruction in the path of a person's goals leads to
frustration inside him/her. That frustration, if arising out of the job, may lead to aggression and violence at the
workplace. The reasons may vary from an abusive supervisor to dead-end job with no growth opportunities.

The frustration may lead to positive results as well sometimes as the person may put in more efforts to reach

his goals or bring changes to his goals as per the situation. But in most of the cases, frustration is not good
and so organization should try to eliminate it.

b) Goal conflict It results due to two or motives of an individual blocking one another. It happens when a
person has

A goal with both positive and negative aspects

Two or more positive, but mutually exclusive goals
Two or more negative, but mutually exclusive goals that one tends to avoid

As per psychology, the positive features of an organizational goal are more dominant than the negative ones
in the very beginning. But as the goal comes nearer, negative aspects begin to become more prominent for
the person. The point, where approach equal avoidance, is where stress, indecision, depression or
unwillingness and other such mixed feelings develop in the person which is damaging for him/her as well as

c) Role conflict and ambiguity Role is defined as a position that has expectations evolving from established
norms. Different roles have different expectations and demands associated with them which sometimes lead
to role conflict. There are three types of role conflict

Between person and the role It refers to the differences between a person's personality attributes and
expectations attached with the role.

Intrarole Due to contradictory expectations about how a given role should be played, an ambiguous
situation arises for the person.

Interrole Due to differing requirements of 2 or more roles that must be played at the same time, interrole
conflicts arise. This mostly happens in the case of work and non work roles. For example, a working mother
has to play two separate roles at home and office.

Interactive conflict (macro level) It includes conflict between individuals as well as groups.

1. Interpersonal conflict the most common form of conflict in any organization is the one between two
persons. There are four major reasons of interpersonal conflict

a) The differences between persons arising out of different cultural and family background, education, and

b) The communication breakdown in the organization.
c) The incompatible roles of the managers, in contrast to their functions and task which are interdependent.
d) An environment marred by work stress, downsizing, market competition, uncertainties also leads to

2. Intergroup behavior and conflict It refers to the conflict between members of one group with those of the
other groups. The reasons leading to these can be :a) Competition for organization's scarce resources like funds, space, work force etc.
b) Difference in their objectives and priorities.
c) Ambiguity on the part of the responsibility and authority of a group.
d) Envy between groups or unfair treatment of one group in terms of rewards, job assignments, working
conditions, privileges etc.

Substantive conflict is defined as a breakdown in the decision making process. That is, an alternative
cannot be chosen. Therefore, conflict manifests itself in a disagreement over alternatives (positions).
However, conflict has its roots causes in one of two types of disagreements:

Criteria, interests, goals


Cause/Effect beliefs, theories, assumptions

While substantive conflict may be resolved when a decision is made, emotive conflict may still exist.
Emotive conflict is the emotional or affective orientation to the other party resulting from the conflict over
issues. It results in an affective orientation to the other party that is often stored long after the issues are
resolved and forgotten. It manifests itself in we/they feelings, distrust, stereotyping, anger, information
withholding and distortion and a general desire the "beat" the other side on future issues.
Conflict is a process that begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively
affected, or is about to negatively affects, something that the first party cares about. In other words conflict
is a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or
Conflict can be substantive or emotional. Substantive conflict is any disagreement over goals,
resources, rewards, policies, procedures, and job assignments. Emotional conflict results from feelings of
anger, distrust, dislike, dislike, fear and resentment, as well as relationship problems.
A conflict exists when two people wish to carry out acts which are mutually inconsistent. They may
both want to do the same thing, such as eat the same apple, or they may want to do different things
where the different things are mutually incompatible, such as when they both want to stay together but
one wants to go to the cinema and the other to stay at home. A conflict is resolved when some mutually
compatible set of actions is worked out. The definition of conflict can be extended from individuals to
groups (such as states or nations), and more than two parties can be involved in the conflict.

It has been identified that there are two types of conflict in the organization, but it is interesting to note
what forms of conflict occur between individuals, groups and departments of the organization, and
whether these affect performance. There are three forms of conflict relations identified within the
Individual Conflict
This type of conflict can be applicable to both managers and subordinates. It relates to conflict of
orders that an individual may receive. This is called Role conflict. The individual is faced with two
conflicting orders such that compliance to one would make it difficult to comply with the other. Individuals
in this situation may feel divided loyalties to those initiating the orders and may suffer a reprimand for the
orders not complied with.
Interpersonal Conflict
Interpersonal conflict occurs when two people have incompatible needs, goals, or approaches in their
relationship. Communication breakdown is often an important source of interpersonal conflict and learning
communication skills is valuable in preventing and resolving such difficulties. At the same time, very real
differences occur between people that cannot be resolved by any amount of improved communication.
Personality conflict refers to very strong differences in motives, values or styles in dealing with people
that are not resolvable. For example, if both parties in a relationship have a high need for power and both
want to be dominant in the relationship, there is no way for both to be satisfied, and a power struggle
ensues. Common tactics used in interpersonal power struggles include the exaggerated use of rewards
and punishments, deception and evasion, threats and emotional blackmail, and flattery or ingratiation.
Unresolved power conflict usually recycles and escalates to the point of relationship breakdown and
Sources of Interpersonal Conflict
Organizational change: People hold differing views over the direction to go, the routes to take and their
likely success, the resources to be used, and the probable outcomes. With the pace of technological,
political, and social change increasing and the marketplace hurtling toward a global economy,
organizational changes will be ever-present.
Personality clashes: The concept of individual differences is fundamental to organizational behavior. Not
everyone thinks feels, looks, or acts alike. Some people simply rub us the wrong way, and we can not
necessarily explain why. Although personality differences can cause conflict, they are also rich resource
for creative problem solving. Employees need to accept, respect, and learn how to use these differences
when arise.
Different sets of values: People also hold different beliefs and adhere to different value systems. Their
philosophies may diverge, or their ethical values may lead them in different directions. The resulting
disputes can be difficult to resolve, since they are less objective than disagreements over alternative
products, inventory levels, or promotional campaigns.
Threats to status: Status or the social rank of a person in a group is very important to many individuals.
When ones status in threatened, face saving becomes a powerful driving force as a person struggles to
maintain a desired image. Conflict may arise between the defensive person and whoever created a threat
to status.
Contrasting perceptions: People perceive things differently as a result of their prior experiences and
expectations. Since their perceptions are very real to them (and they feel that these perceptions must be
equally apparent to other), they sometimes fail to realize that others may hold contrasting perceptions of

the same object or event. Conflict may arise unless employees learn to see things as others see them
and help others do the same.
Lack of trust: Every continuing relationship requires some degree of trustthe capacity to depend on
each others word and actions. Trust opens up boundaries, provides opportunities in which to act, and
enriches the entire social fabric of an organization. It takes time to build, but it can be destroyed in an
instant. When someone has a real or perceived reason not to trust another, the potential for conflict rises.
Intergroup Organizational Conflicts
This form of conflict occurs between the departments of the organization and is potentially the most
damaging to performance. This is of primary focus in organizational conflict today as managing intergroup
conflict is essential if firms are to manage change in their environment effectively. If Intergroup conflicts
are the most important to control, then if is useful to assess its causes within the organization. There are
four main reasons for intergroup conflict. Dessler (1998) outlines these in further detail.
Sources of Intergroup Conflict
Interdependencies and shared resources: Within an organization there are set resources that
departments must compete for to initiate and complete projects and to improve and expand their areas.
As a result, departments who are in competition for these scarce resources may come into conflict as
they attempt to put forward there own requirements over other departments. Personalities, hiding of
information and office politics may come into play, which may fuel negative conflict. Dessler (1998)
believes however that if managed properly, then this type of obstacle may become and incentive for
collaboration. If this is to be the case, fairness and free flow of information is a necessity.
Intergroup differences in goals, values or perceptions: Different departments obviously have different
objectives to that of other departments, and these objectives are often the source of conflict. Each
department is attempting to satisfy their own demands, but these demands may be in direct conflict with
the demands of other departments, e.g. the R&D department will have conflicting objectives to that of the
Accounts department. The greater the difference between departments, the greater the potential for
Authority imbalances: Conflict may also arise between departments relating to authority. It may occur
when one department must accept instructions from another department. The department in receipt of
these instructions may believe this is unacceptable due to their level of performance.
Ambiguity: Conflict can also arise where there is ambiguity regarding where credit or blame can be
assigned and when responsibilities of the departments are not clearly defined. This type of conflict may
result in finger pointing between departments as they attempt to lay the blame on other departments, or
defend their level of involvement with a project. It is clamed that all of these forms of conflict can be
controlled with positive effects, but this may not always be possible. Although the four forms involve
different characters, conflict itself can be divided up into five different stages.