Organizational Conflicts

Meaning and Causes of Conflicts

We all are humans. One of the major things that make us different for each other is our way of thinking and behaving. When people with different attributes and preferences interact with each other, there are huge chances that they do not work in harmony. Not working in harmony is one of the leading causes of conflicts.

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Though there are many causes of conflicts, it happens mainly because of the different ways of working in the workplace. Everyone believes that while finding the solution of the conflict, it is necessary to address the problem, not the people.

Types of conflict that can occur in any organization include vague role responsibility, conflict of interest, shortage of resources and interpersonal relationships.

Causes of Conflicts

What is Conflict?

According to Rahim, “conflict is a natural outcome of human interaction which begins when one individual perceives that his or her goals, attitudes, values or beliefs are incongruent with those of another individual.”

Hence, it is nothing but the difference in opinions that lead to big disasters in the organization. It can happen between two workers, two groups and people and groups altogether also.

Browse more Topics under Organizational Conflicts

Read more about Interpersonal Skills, Listening Skills, and Emotional Intelligence here

Sources and Causes of Conflicts in an Organization

Vague Definition of Responsibility

In an organization, generally, all the workers have their own set of work and responsibilities.

In practical life, it is not completely applicable. Many times, there are chances when there emerge a conflict due to some unclear facts, like who has to complete a certain task, whom to report, superior-subordinate relationship etc.

That is why everyone believes that the organization must specify the roles and responsibilities of the workers either in writing or orally for effective ‘Conflict Control’.

Moreover, the workers should accept all the responsibilities at the same time.

Lack of Resources

There are various groups or departments in an organization. Factory gives them a separate proportion of resources. In practical life, the departments generally end up fighting for the appropriation of resources.

It generally happens due to competition among the groups to outperform other departments. In order to deal with such conflict, there should be a proper appropriation and mobilization of resources.


Undoubtedly, in every organization, there are 2 different interests which prevail.

First one is of the workers and the other is of the organization. An organization wants to earn more and more profits, for which they are not ready to pay higher wages.

On the other hand, workers want more and more wages. These two interests are contradicting to each other. In this present era, organizations try their level best to match both the needs.

Whenever any of the parties go aggressive towards their needs, it may lead to a conflict.

Inter-personal Relations

Human is a social animal having his/her own region, religion, preferences, way of working, etc.

Though this diversity in the workforce brings creativity in the work, it also leads to conflict between the groups. Many times, it leads to hampering of production or work due to personal prejudices at the workplace.

The management should try to find these prejudices and deal with them before it turns into a conflict.

Specific Causes of Conflicts

Communication Breakdown

In today’s world, all the departments in organizations are inter-connected. Communication between all the departments is quite general and obvious. It is because communication helps them to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other.

But there are certain chances of emergence of conflict between them. It can happen if one department asks for some information from some other department and that department does not respond to the request.

Moreover, there are instances when a department puts the request of another department under the status of ‘under review’. This becomes one of the causes of conflicts.

Expectation of Manager

In every organization, a manager expects something from each of these subordinates. It becomes the duty of the subordinates to fulfil the expectation of the manager.

But there are certain chances when they might misunderstand their expectations. Undoubtedly, transmission of order by the manager is important but at the same time, it is necessary to get their acceptance as well (especially in writing).

This way, the organization, as well as the managers, will be able to work on one of the causes of conflicts.

Information Misunderstood

Each person has his own level of understanding and knowledge which he applies to understand things and facts. In an organization too, the employees have different levels of education and understanding level.

Whenever they receive any information either from the top level or from the lower level, they try their level best to interpret the information. There are certain instances when they fail to interpret the actual meaning of the information.

This can lead to further conflicts. In order to solve such kind of conflicts, it is necessary for the employees to admit their misunderstanding of the information.

Moreover, the managers should provide an opportunity for the workers to give feedback without any fear.

Solved Example on Causes of Conflicts

Q.Explain how can ‘Lack of Accountability’ become a cause of conflict in an organization?

Answer Responsibility is yet another important aspect of any organization.

But there can be certain instances when someone commits a mistake and no one is ready to take over the responsibility of the act because there is no accountability which is created at the time of assignment of the work.

This may lead to frustration among the workers and ultimately to conflicts in the organization.

In order to combat this cause of conflict, the organization must set an organizational working structure in which every person who receives any work, must sign on a paper stating his approval of taking the accountability for the work.

This may also lead to better coordination at all the levels of the organization.

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