What Is Conflict? Definition, Types, Causes, & Ways To Resolve

What is Conflict? Definition, Features, Views, Types, Causes, and Ways To Resolve

What is Conflict?

Conflict is any disagreement between two or more people and groups. Whenever two or more people have different interests, values, goals, and understanding conflict arises. It may be in a person, within people, within groups, or within organizations.

In other words, conflict refers to all kinds of opposition or antagonistic interaction between or among individuals and groups. It exists whenever one party perceives that another party has hampered or is about to hamper, the accomplishment of goals.

Conflicts indicate a scarcity of various things such as understanding, agreement, and compatibility among people in a sharing environment. It can arouse emotions and anxiety, lower satisfaction, and decrease performance.

In organizations, conflicts arise due to various reasons, the one reason is when employees do not get the salary they expected. Similarly, when one employee agrees with the given responsibilities and another is not.

conflict between boss and employees


  • Conflict involves incompatible behavior; one person interfering, disrupting, or in some other way making another’s action less effective – Dean Tjosvold
  • Conflict is disagreement among two or more individuals, groups, or organizations – Griffins
  • Conflict consists of all kinds of opposition or antagonistic interaction. It is based on scarcity of power, resources, or social position and differing value structure – Stephen P Robbins

So, conflict is a process by which a person or assembly senses frustration in the pursuance of some plans, goals, or objectives. It is closely related to change and inter-personal dealings.

Views On Conflict

There are 3 views on the conflict, the traditional view, the human relations view, and the internationalist view. They explained as:

The Traditional View

According to the traditional view, all conflicts are harmful and avoidable. Conflict is viewed negatively and associated with turbulence, agitation, destruction, irrationality, and violence.

The Human Relations View

Behavioral scientists argue that it is a natural and inevitable outcome in any organization and as such should be accepted. Conflicts are bound to arise in organizations because an organization is composed of individuals having different goals, values, and perceptions. So conflict is unavoidable and need not always be harmful. Under certain conditions, it could lead to more innovative solutions to problems.

The Internationalist View

This is the modern view on conflicts. Here the disagreement is regarded as not only inevitable but also useful. The internationalists argue that if harmony, peace, and cooperativeness prevail in an organization for a long time, the organization is likely to become non-responsive to innovation and change. A minimum level of conflict is required to enhance competency and make itself critical and creative.


Features are:

  • It occurs when two or more parties pursue mutually exclusive goals, values, or events.
  • It can exist either at talent or over level.
  • It is the opposite of cooperation.
  • It is a dynamic process.
  • It indicates a series of events.
  • It is a misunderstanding.
  • It is inevitable.
  • It is a reason for creativity.
  • It is a part of us everyone’s life.

Types of Conflict

4 types of conflict

Intra-Personal Conflict (Within an Individual)

Intra-personal conflict arises inside an individual. It arises due to divergent goals and multiple roles, which the individual is expected to play.

Goal conflicts occur when an individual faces the problem of choosing among competing goals. Role conflicts arise when the expectations of a role are materially different or opposite and the individual can meet one expectation only at the cost of other expectations.

It also occurs due to role ambiguity. Role ambiguity occurs when an individual is not clear regarding his duties and responsibilities.

Interpersonal Conflict (Between Individuals)

It occurs in a condition when two or more persons interact with one another. Such interaction may take place between peers or seniors and subordinates.

The conflict between them may arise due to the difference in their choices made by them. It is a result of an individual’s inability to confirm the norms of the groups. The main causes of it are personality differences, perceptions, clash of values and interests, power and status differences, scarcity of resources, etc.

Inter-Group Conflict

It occurs between two or more groups in the organization. Many intergroup conflicts arise for organizational causes rather than interpersonal causes.

The conflict between line and staff, between production and sales department, and between management and unions, are examples of group conflicts. The major reasons for intergroup conflicts are competition for scarce resources, joint decision making, task interdependence, introduction to change, and incompatible goals.

Inter-Organizational Conflict

Inter-organizational conflict is called when it arises between two organizations. It is a result of business competition. Both the conflicting parties generally engage in providing similar types of services or products. Both parties become barriers to each other’s success.

Causes and ways to Resolve Conflicts

There may be various causes/reasons for conflicts in the organization. The manager has to take the necessary steps to resolve these conflicts. The most causes of conflicts in the organization are pointed out below:

The manager should take careful steps to resolve these conflicts, if not the organizational goals can not be achieved in time and with expected resources. He should go for conflicts stimulation, prevention, and resolution techniques. They are:

Conflict Stimulation techniques:

  • Reorganizing
  • Communication
  • Encouraging Competition, and
  • Bringing in Outsiders

Conflict Prevention Techniques:

  • Super Ordinate Goals
  • Reduce Interdependence
  • Exchange of Personnel
  • Liaison group
  • Appeal to higher Authority

Conflict Resolution Techniques:

  • Problem Solving
  • Accommodation
  • Compromising
  • Avoidance

Learn More: Full Guide on These Conflicts Management Techniques

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: