Conflict and Conflict Resolution


With the emergence of globalization and the subsequent growth of world economies, the upsurge in human population and the need for interpersonal and organizational communication, people seem to interact more and more. Most of these interactions take place at work places.

Diversity at the workplace has also been a major cause of conflicts in organizations. In addition, the growing need for interaction to help come up with decisions and policies in organizations has been another cause o conflicts in modern business environments. Therefore, conflicts at work places have become common phenomena (Palmer, p 4).

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Definition of conflict

As observed by (Rahim, p15) the word conflict does not have a very clear way of defining it. The difference in defining it comes as a result of different definitions from different scholars in varying fields of study that have a desire to study conflict. However, all different definitions are accepted so long as one clearly specifies the subject or field of study under which he or she if defining it.

The definition according to an organizational context is that conflict is a leakage or a disruption in the standard channels of making decisions in the organization which hinders the choice of alternative options by either individuals or groups. It is however argued that this definition does not suit to be used in research as it narrows down the concept (Rahim, p15).

Conflict can also be explained as an activity that happens between two people who have conscious minds and are logical in thinking. A conflict is an event that happens when a number of people wish to pursue something, but they fail to have a common stand on how to do it. The definition of conflict is nonetheless not strictly attached to individuals or groups but it can also be applied to bigger entities like states (Nicholson, p 11).

Conflict can also be defined as disagreement that comes from either individuals or groups as a result of varying opinions, differing needs and attitudes, perception and values. Conflict results when these groups or individuals come up with varying and opposing stand on a similar subject (Walker and Miller p 378).

Reasons of conflicts

Conflicts in organizations or at workplaces arise due to numerous reasons. In organizations or workplaces, relations between individuals or groups matter a lot. It is these relations that stand to determine whether the organization runs smoothly or not. We currently live in an uncertain economy that is characterized by competition for both market and promotion, priorities that are mostly misplaced, blame game and pointing of fingers and stress and depression that result from work pressures.

All these stand in interaction to cause conflicts at work places. It is however believed that the heterogeneity of people stands to be a universal genesis of conflict in companies. As people work together, disagreement over decisions is inevitable. These differences come to play when setting goals, formulating objectives, making policies and in the strife to attain or achieve these goals and objectives (Psychometrics, para 2).

In a study that was carried out in Canada about experiences of conflict at workplace having been triggered by the studies done in the United States and United Kingdom, causes of conflicts were rated in percentages. With the leading percentage of 86% were personality problems. This was followed by poor leadership and management at 73%. Third, was the communication problem at 67% followed by workplace generated stress with 64% lastly, came conflict over values with 59% (Psychometrics, para 3).

A majority of employees tend to share same views on what causes conflicts at workplaces. They argue that conflicts depart from certain major attributes among them the aspect of leadership in organizations, differing personalities, communication patterns and the environment at work.

Personality diversity is seen as the major reason for conflicts between and among workers. It is too hard to integrate the divergent personalities from different people. Different personalities are accompanied by different egos thus a clash of egos becomes eminent (Landskroner, p 218).

According to Walker and Miller (p. 382) there are many reasons why there are employee conflicts at places of work. These are lack of or proper communication, poor defining of roles and duties by the management and low esteem by employees resulting from the notion of undervaluation.

Communication plays a very big role in ensuring that the organization runs smoothly. Communication itself is a very delicate and complicated phenomenon. Absence of honesty and openness amongst employees is perceived to emanate from work related stress causes clashes between employees (Walker and Miller p. 382).

Lack of good leadership also plays a big role in bringing conflicts at the workplace. When the top management of companies comes up with policies that do not foster good relations in the organization, conflicts become unavoidable. However, it is hard to define what good leadership itself is (Walker and Miller p. 382).

Speedy pace of business is one of the major causes of conflict. Too much pressure is put on employees to suit the bulging needs of companies or businesses, for instance the need to increase production to meet the rising demand. Such pressure stressing up employing resulting in tampers thus creating a favorable environment for conflicts (Wenger and Mockli, p 4).

Competition has become a common case in business due to diversity in consumption patterns, advancement in technology and globalization. Organizations work to tailor-make their products, thus the need to diversify operations of organizations in order to maximize their profits. Diversification affects the mutual working patterns and relations resulting in conflicts in organizations (Wenger and Mockli p 4).

Additionally, organizations nowadays keep altering and shifting the working environment. This is as a result of organizations in modern time being characterized by merging of functions, acquisitions, maximization of sales and expansion of operations that is accompanied with opening of newer enterprises. All these are positive but the pressures that come with them are sometimes too high to be managed resulting in conflict (Eisaguirre, p 13).

Sources of conflict

There is almost a blurred line between the causes of employee conflict and the sources of conflicts in organization or companies. However, it should be understood that it is reasons that culminate into causes. The sources of conflict could be structural, or economic related. It could also be social, psychological or cultural.

An individual and the organization are the two broad sources of conflicts (Stretton, p 25). Personal qualities of an individual which are shaped by many factors are also sources of conflicts. Many people differ in terms of age, sex, gender, religious affiliations, manner of communicating and even personal motivations. All these interact and the result of their interaction is conflict (Burke and Friedman, p 54).

In organizations, the most common cause of conflict is inadequate resources. The need to use the fewer available resources to satisfy demands of competing ends result in work pressures leading to wrangles. This is an organizational problem that results in other pressures which brings turmoil at places of work (Burke and Friedman, p 54).

Power is a very important element in any organization. In fact it is argued that the source of many conflicts between employees in organizations is power. It is very hard to find an organization where power has been equally distributed across the organization, because power comes from major three sources mentioned as structure, knowledge and the culture.

Power creates dependency that makes some people have power to influence others. If not well managed, power which gives one person an upper hand of influencing the outcome of events could lead to constant confrontations and put into tatters the good patterns of relations (Bacal, p 20).

Age in the modern times has come to be a very concrete debate in politics. Age has polarized the world population into the old and the youths. Age has resulted in discrimination in organizations where the old oppose the young and vice versa. All these employees exist in organization and because they are at loggerheads with each other, conflict become inevitable (Kunisch, Sven, Boehm, and Boppel, p 79)

Goal and goal setting is an origin of conflicts in the organization. There are different types of goals namely content, process, and relational and identity goals. Failure to understand and act according to the need of each individual goals could cause many misunderstands (Collins and O’Rourke, p 8).

Sex and gender issues have in the recent past been a source of employee conflicts. It is nowadays common to hear spouses conflicting because of relations at the workplace for instance you may hear that a boss has sex relations with an employee. When these conflicts spill over to the public, it is too hard to contain them.

They even go a way out to cause breakage of marriages and engagements. Gender stereotypes are also major causes of conflicts at the workplace (Barret, p 232). When organizations fail to clearly define roles and responsibilities, there will be a likelihood of a conflict to happen. In such a case, decisions are reached upon in a hap hazard manner. Such decisions easily escalate to conflicts at the workplace (Straesser, p 21).

Intrapersonal factors have ability to cause serious conflicts. An example is stress and depression. Stress can originate from either from home or at the work place. Stress makes an individual to act irrationally. It interferes with a person’s use of good skills either at home or at where one works (Goldman, p 328).

Symptoms of conflicts

Failing to solve conflicts creates a lot of costs in an organization because in most cases, conflicts are liabilities to the organization. It may not be easy for an outsider to know when and if an organization is experiencing conflicts.

However, there are some trends or patterns of behavior that may make one deduce that a conflict exist in an organization. These include workers avoiding one another, bad – mouthing amongst employees, disintegration of groups or teams, and discrimination of individuals or groups and absenteeism (Collins and O’Rourke, p 2).

When employees are in conflict, the patterns of relations change. The employees in conflict will want not to come face to face or in contact with one another. They keep avoiding each other even if they work in a similar department. Such tension destabilizes the functioning of the organization and aggravates conflicts (Collins and O’Rourke, p 2).

When things are not working well at the workplace, employees would like to gossip about these deep seated issues therefore these are indicative of a conflict in the organization. Conflicts in organizations are characterized by disintegration of groups. It becomes very hard for people to work as a team whenever workers are in conflict with either the management or with other workers (Collins and O’Rourke, p 3).

Components of conflicts

For a conflict to take place there has to be more than a single party. This is the first component of conflict that arises from the definition of the term itself. However, this component seems to ignore intrapersonal conflicts from which most conflicts originate (Scannell, p 2). There has to be incompatibility in ter

ms of ideas, beliefs, actions, objectives and goals. For a conflict to prevail there has to be opposing views over something or someone (Scannell, p. 2). In conflicting situations, the sides which oppose one another see their options as the best suited to offer the best solution.

People work to maximize the adoption of their ideas (Scannell, p 2). Organizations that experience conflict mostly have higher rates of performance. Certain conflict types may affect the performance of groups or organizations positively. These fall under substantive conflicts. More often, such conflicts are related to differing opinions duties, policies and other issues related to business (Scannell, p 3).

Effects of conflicts

The effects of conflicts can be categorized into three; first order, second order and third order effects. In the first order, the effects can be easily quantified. The consequences of a conflict are readily determined. In the second category, the effects may not necessarily relate directly to the original conflict. In the third category, the effects are too hard or impossible to scale (Route and Omiko, p 245).

Conflicts between or among employees in any given organization come with numerous consequences some of which may be positive while others may be negative. In organizations, the conflicts have a number of outcomes which include excessive worker turnover, deficient morale, decline in production, reduction in the quality of products, failure to honor tenders due to employees’ laxity in production and stricter supervision (Route and Omiko, p 246).

According to the Center for Conflict Resolution International, the consequences of conflicts at places of work can reach devastating levels either to the partakers in the conflict or to colleagues of those involved in conflict and to clients and the whole business at large. The consequences of conflicts at work place include mental conditions like stress, anxiety or even in some cases insomnia.

Others are strained relationships, reduced production, rise in employee turnover rate, client dissatisfaction, habitual absenteeism cases and increased grievances from employees and subsequent litigation (Center for conflict resolution international, para. 2).

Failure to resolve conflicts reduces output of employees in any given organization. It is however important to note that this impact of conflict is always ignored or unrecognized. Employees who work under high pressure or whose efforts are not rewarded have a higher risk of developing physical disorders.

Such employees may easily develop mental disorders. Due to the rising cases of conflicts at workplaces, more and more people are reported to seek for help to help them manage conditions that originate from the conflicts. All these are psychologically inclined reasons that are linked to or reflective of the environment under which people work (Center for conflict resolution international, para 3).

Work related conflicts have had a spill over effect to the social and family life. Depression coming from employee conflict has led to cases like suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse, verbal abuse, domestic violence among many other vices. Some families have had to separate or even break because of these reasons (Center for conflict resolution international, para 3).

Types of conflicts

Conflicts that exist at places of work have two broad dimensions. The first one is the employee – employee conflict while the second dimensions the employee management conflict. Classifying conflicts is done differently for different types of conflicts. Most classification of conflicts are based the causal factors. There exist two types of conflicts. The first type is called substantive conflict while the second type is called personality- inclined conflict.

Substantive conflicts arise from specific problems which lie at the center of the problem. They can be controlled or managed only by addressing the specific problem. For instance when two or more employees compete over the use of a resource like a printer in an organization, a conflict is likely to happen. Personality conflicts arise from individuals and individual characters and characteristic in interaction with one another (Rau-Foster, para 10).

Another classification breaks conflicts into different types. These types are organized conflicts, unorganized conflicts, perceived conflict, line – staff conflict, latent conflict and manifest conflict (Goel, p 209). Organized conflicts and unorganized conflicts are put into one class. An instance of organized conflict is the conflict between the top leadership of an organization and the employees union.

Such a conflict is expressed when the competing parties choose to counter each other. When the option of countering and battling one another seem not to bear result, the parties may turn to use unorganized conflict like absenting themselves, strikes, go slows among others (Goel, p 209).

When a conflict is perceived in an organization, a lot of pressure and tensions develop in the organization. The perception may be wright or wrong but it becomes a potential ground for conflict. This is what is referred to as perceived conflict (Goel, p 209). Line staff conflict happens due to the presence of people to manage line and staff activities.

Line managers see themselves as being superior to the staff managers hence a conflict becomes imminent (Goel, p 209). Latent conflict is an almost invisible conflict because the conflicting parties do not show it in open. Manifest conflict is the opposite of latent conflict. Here, parties express themselves in an open manner. It can also be called open conflict (Goel, p 209).

Employee-manager conflicts

This is a unique form of conflict because parties to the conflict have different power and status because they are in different positions. These conflicts arise in organizations mostly because of organizational policies that are developed by the management. They mostly happen in top – down organizations. In an attempt to enforce organizational rules and policies, the management most of the time find themselves in conflict with workers (Ting-Toomey and John p 138).

Managers may also possess bad characters and poor communication skills. Vices like favoritism by bosses, ignorance, lack of appraisals, dictatorship, lack of respect and the use of course language on employees are among things that may put employees at loggerheads with their managers. These conflicts mostly emanate when ineffective or unfavorable policies are made and employees object to them (Ting-Toomey and John, p. 138).

Conflicts between employees

Conflict between employees is a common form of conflict. There are many reasons as to why these conflicts are more common. However, it is important to note that most of these originate from personalities and issues of teamwork. For them to work and achieve the set goals and targets there has to be a lot of cohesiveness. However, achieving this is quite hard due to differing personalities, characters and interests of people (Monberg, p 40).

Employees in an organization can have wrangles over positions leading to confrontations and hatred. Competing for positions may be based on either legitimate grounds or jealousy. It is very hard to achieve cohesive working patterns when such wrangles are prevailing at workplace. In the current days, cases of sacking off of workers have risen. In addition, the rates of resignations from work have gone very high an indicator of increased conflicts (Doerner and Lab p. 361).

Stress levels in an organization are perceived to be the major causes of employee conflicts. Stress lead to violent conflicts. Most violent confrontations at the workplace originate from long serving employees. Employees who serve long in organizations have high pressure levels due to the stress that is generated at the work place (Doerner and Lab, p. 361). Besides work generated factors, there are other factors that cause confrontations at the places of work. These entail individually generated factors like the culture of violence, social problems, drug and substance abuse and mental defects (Doerner and Lab p. 361).

Avoidance of conflict

The importance of conflict avoidance at work place using social norm has been emphasized by social psychologists. However, with the increasing diversity of human populations and changing nature of work environments, conflict becomes an inevitable phenomenon. In the modern human resource management era, conflicts are managed using conflict resolution as a basic tool (Hirsch, p 289).

A number of scholars have developed strategies that can help avoid conflicts; the absorption of these strategies into organization and groups is very hard. The theory of pursuant equality explains issues of employment. This theory suggests that it is not good for employees to know about the salary scales of core employees because once an employee discovers that a core employee is earning more than he or she, the relationship will be constrained thus a conflict (Hirsch, p 291).

There has been an increasing trend of nurturing internal workforce markets more so in the United States of America. These markets are characterized by a knowledge oriented economy that embraces computer and information technology. Nonetheless, most workers find the new system complicated. While it has a lot of merits, information exchange is very rapid thus information confidentiality no longer prevails (Hirsch, p 289).

Definition of conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is a common term in modern management. Interactions in modern society come with a lot of challenges that make conflict a very common thing. When conflicts happen, there are four options to take. These are ignoring, avoiding, confronting or resolving.

The last one is considered as the best approach (Wandberg, p 22). Conflict resolution can be defined as a process of minimizing or calming conflicts so as to avoid the worst consequences from happening. These consequences may harm people or their property. In organizations, when employees conflict they may harm one another either physically, emotionally or socially. Conflict at work place may also harm the business (Wandberg, p 22).

Conflict resolution skills

Since conflict is almost inevitable, organizations – management and employees have to know how they should deal with them to avoid catastrophes. There is a growing need for the management of organizations to have skills on resolving conflicts at their fingertips. There exist different models from which comprehensive methods of resolving conflicts can be derived from. They are put into different classes.

These are calculation model of conflict resolution, human model of conflict resolution and the game theory and collaborative design of resolving conflicts (Liu, p. 359).

From these, two designs were developed that helps in conflict resolution. They include bargains and multiple agents. The bargain design entail the knowledge of the concerns of other parties or agents and adjusting your concerns accordingly. The multiple agent design is used to resolve conflicts in complex setups (Liu, p. 359).

here are different forms of conflict resolution methods that can be adopted to help resolve conflicts at the workplace. They include mediation, negotiation, arbitration, conciliation and litigation. For one to adopt any of these, he or she must have knowledge of it including how to use it as each method best suit a particular conflict in question (Doherty and Guyler, p 50).

The above methods of resolving conflicts differ in very small ways because they are governed by similar principles (Doherty and Guyler, p 50). A general approach to solving any conflict including understanding each others views, identifying underlying issues, seeking potential options of addressing the issues, understanding the consequence that is posed by each option, choosing best alternatives and developing mechanisms to resolve the conflict (Hess, Orthmann, LaDue and Bennett, p 391).

Tips to conflict resolution

Doherty and Guyler (p.49) argues that it is very vital to know that conflicts come from the uniting factors in the society. It is mostly through interactions that conflicts arise. When people come together to work, divisive factors emerge which distorts healthy ways of relating.

All forms of interactions have conflicts. To resolve any conflict, one has to have an open mind. In conflict resolution there are three probable outcomes which are win – win, win some – loose some, win – loose and loose – loose. One has to really understand what conflict resolution is – its purpose and how to go about it (Sears, Rudisill and Mason-Sears, p 109).

In conflict resolution compromise is more desired as compared to avoidance or competition. In compromise each side is expected to make concessions. For instance in a dispute over salary, the workers may be expected to lower the figures while the management is expected to raise the figure in order to reach a rational and amicable figure that is sustainable to both (Davidson, p 41).

When resolving a conflict it is advisable to be selfless. One is advised not to dominate his/her mind with thoughts about himself or herself. This is called caring counts. One is expected to be ready to accept apologies and make concessions (Davidson, p 41). One must work as hard as possible to minimize personal generated stress which may interfere with sober judgments (Davidson, p 41).

Things to avoid in conflict resolution

There are some attributes of an individual that work negatively in conflict resolution and therefore, they should be avoided. Denial is one of them. This is where a party to the conflict refuses to accept that a problem exists. Denial blocks any efforts to negotiate and thence blocks the process of resolving the conflict (Davidson, p 41).

Avoiding the conflict must also be eliminated. Avoidance makes it hard for the resolution process to commence and aggravating the consequences of the conflict (Davidson, p 41). Blaming others is a very undesirable character in resolving conflicts. Blame game generates circular arguments which stalemate the process (Davidson, p 41). One cannot achieve his or her desires by using power and position. Thus power and authority should be suppressed at all means for the resolution process to be smooth (Davidson, p 41).


From the discussion employee conflict is a broad subject of study. In the current world there are many changes most of which necessitates conflict. Conflicts at workplaces have a range of causes which are either personal or organizational generated. It is quite hard to avoid or prevent conflicts from emerging. However, if well managed and resolved, their impacts can be greatly minimized.

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