Reasons for Conflicts


There are many reasons for conflicts among groups and its members. Some of them are related to limited resources, communication problems, differences in interests and goals, different perceptions, attitudes and lack of clarity about responsibilities. The reasons for group conflicts are as follows:

  • Communication problems: Groups often become very involved with their own areas of responsibility. They tend to develop their own unique vocabulary. Paying attention to an area of responsibility is a worthy Endeavour, but it can result in communication problems. The receiver of information should be considered when a group communicates an idea, a proposal, or a decision. Misinformed receivers often become irritated and then hostile.
  • Incompatible goals: Inter-group conflict arises because of goal incompatibility. In other words, goal attainment by one group may reduce the level of goal attainment by other groups. This may be due to horizontal differentiation and task specialization. The conflict between production and marketing departments, line and staff departments, union and management are few examples of inter-group conflicts that arise because of in­compatibility of goals.
  • Task interdependence: Task interdependence means to what extent a work, group relies on other organizational groups to complete its tasks. In simple words, it refers to the dependence of one group on another for resources or information. It can be said in general that as interdependence increases, the potential for conflict increases.

According to J. Thompson, there are three types of interdependence among groups, which are as follows:

    • Pooled interdependence: It arises when groups have little interaction with each other but are affected by each other’s activities. For example, a branch in Delhi does not need to interact with a branch in Chennai. The only linkage between the two is that they share financial resources from a common pool and the success of each branch contributes to the success of the organization.
    • Sequential task interdependence: It arises when one group is unable to commence its work until the work of other group gets completed. In sequential task interdependence, the output of one group becomes the input of another group. In such situations, the potential for conflict is greater. Life and staff groups often have conflicts resulting from this type of interdependence.
    • Reciprocal interdependence: It arises between the groups, which depend on each other for their respective task such as production department and quality department. The production department provides the goods to the marketing department to sell and the marketing department prepares the orders and estimates on the basis of the volume produced by the production department. Inter-group conflict arises from reciprocal task interdependence over difference in performance expectations. Each group is dissatisfied will the quality or quantity of work received; from the other group.
    • Task ambiguity: The lack of clarity over job responsibilities is called task ambiguity and it frequently leads to aggression between groups. Inter-group conflict also arises when it is not clear which group is responsible for certain activities. Task ambiguity often arises where the organization is growing quickly or the organization’s environment is changing rapidly. A good example of task ambiguity is inter-group conflict arising in the recruitment of new employees. It may be the responsibility of either the personnel department or any of the functional departments such as marketing, finance. The confusion may also arise regarding who has the final authority to execute the final decisions.
    • Resource sharing: The relation between two groups can be affected by the degree to which they make use of a common pool of resources and the degree to which this common pool of resources is adequate to meet the demands of both the groups. Thus, conflict of this nature; arises because of the differences between aggregate demand of a group and available resources to meet them. Each party of the conflict competes with each other to get a larger share. The conflict between management and the labor union-is the best example. Such conflicts take place in the quantum of wages, amenities, working conditions and other related matters.
    • Difference in work orientation: The ways in which employees do their work and deal with others vary widely with the functional areas of an organization. First, functional groups differ in their time perspectives. For example, R&D scientists have a longer-range of goals than manufacturing groups. The range of work of manufacturing group is evaluated on how quickly it can manufacture high-quality products while the range of R&D scientists can be evaluated on the basis of product development and testing after a long period of time. Second, the goals of different functional groups vary to a large extent. The goals of manufacturing groups are more specific and clear-cut than the goals of R&D groups.

The greater the differences in goal and time between two groups, the more likely it is that conflict will arise between them while co-ordinating their work efforts. These differences between groups result in frustration, misinterpretation of the behaviors and activities of other groups.

  • Conflicting reward systems: Sometimes the ways in which reward systems in organizations arc designed create a situation in which one group can only. accomplish its goal at the expense of other groups. For example, staff departments may be rewarded for cutting costs and personnel while line departments are rewarded for increasing the amount of products sold or services provided. To increase the amount of products sold, the line group may have to depend even more heavily on staff groups such as advertising. However the staff groups are being rewarded for cutting costs and personnel provided the types of services asked for by line groups can prevent them from meeting their own goals. Conflicting reward systems inevitably result in poor inter-group relations.
  • Different perceptions and attitudes: The attitudes, values and perceptions of members of various groups towards each other can be a cause and a consequence of the nature of their relationship. If the group relations begin with the attitudes of distrust, competitiveness, secrecy and closed communications, there is a possibility of conflicts, disagreements in their views and among themselves. This can affect the success of a group to accomplish their work in an effective manner.
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