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Types of Conflict (Workplace Guide)

A discussion on different types of conflict at work

Introduction

The workplace can be stressful, and the employees might start to take their stresses and anxieties out on each other.  But it is important to understand that conflict is impossible to avoid because conflicts help us grow. It is indeed a part of life.

There are a lot of reasons for employees to experience conflict every single day. Conflicts arise because there is a difference in the needs and interests of the employees working together. But conflict does not have to be so hard to resolve. As long as both parties are willing to understand each other and compromise, things will eventually start working out.

Different Types of Conflict in the Workplace

Individual Conflict

This type of conflict can be subdivided into two types, the intra-individual conflict and the inter-individual conflict.

Intra-Individual Conflict

Intra-Individual Conflict is a type of individual conflict where a person is experiencing a dilemma within him or herself. The conflict occurs inside the mind of an individual, whether to do or not to do a specific thing.

With this, a single person is experiencing some conflict where his or her own values, roles, and goals intertwine with each other. Therefore, there is a need for a decision that might affect something that is important for them.

Example of Intra-Individual Conflict

A lawyer might experience intra-individual conflict when he has to represent a guilty defendant. Even though he knows that the defendant is a criminal, he still has to defend that person. This sparks a conflict within the lawyer because, in a way, he is also going to be guilty for his client’s freedom when he or she deserved to be imprisoned.

Another more relatable example is when you are flooded with deadlines, but your family wants you to have dinner with them. You miss them, but you have a lot of paperwork… so what do you do? Can you reject your family or will you cram your paperwork later?

Inter-Individual Conflict

Inter-Individual Conflict, on the other hand, is a type of conflict where two different people end up having problems with each other. They might have had a confrontation or two about things that happen within the office. As long as the conflict is between two people, it is considered as inter-individual conflict.

Because of this, the workplace might feel a little awkward. And between the involved parties, their problem can get personal.

Example of Inter-Individual Conflict

An employee named Marie was not able to submit a portion of her part for the team project that she has with her workmate, Adrianne. Adrianne felt so annoyed because they missed the deadline, and because of this, their superior was disappointed in both of them.

Now, there is some bad air between Adrianne and Marie, so whenever they are in the same room, they often get into arguments with each other.

Group Conflict

This type of conflict within the office also has two types: intra-group conflict and inter-group conflict.

Intra-Group Conflict

A conflict between people who belong to the same group or department falls under this category.  They might have some troubles because of conflicting goals, or they want to do their tasks with different procedures or approaches.

Examples of Intra-Group Conflict

The department needs to finish a project and submit it to the board, but they are having a hard time deciding what their final subject will be. Some are in favor of Subject A while others prefer Subject B. This might cause a disagreement between the people within the group and cause a huge conflict because their jobs are on the line.

Inter-Group Conflict

This type of conflict means that there are two or more different groups or departments that are disagreeing with each other.  There could be a lot of different reasons for this to happen, and these are some of the most common causes:

  • Different departments or groups might find it hard to communicate well with each other. A terrible communication may lead to lack of trust and resentment.
  • Faux superiority of a specific department or group over the others within the workplace. This is characterized by believing that they are better or more important than any other groups.
  • Competitive nature of the groups might also be a factor for conflict. It could be for praise, recognition, and promotion.
Examples of Inter-Group Conflict

A conflict might arise because Group A copied the idea of Group B and presented it as their own. Because of this, Group B will have nothing to present to the board, therefore making them seem unprepared in front of their superiors.

Another example is whenever there is a conflict between the financial team between other departments because of the delayed salary income. Employees will feel stressed and mad because they cannot get their salaries just yet.


Organizational Conflict

Again, this has two different types: intra-organizational conflict and inter-organizational conflict.

Intra-Organizational Conflict

This conflict encompasses all of the conflicts that occur inside the organization.

Inter-Organizational Conflict

Lastly, these conflicts are characterized by conflicts that happen between two different organizations.

According to Stagner and Rosen, there are 5 different types of Inter-Organizational Conflict, namely:

Management to Government Conflict

Because of various reasons such as bribery, fair trade, political contributions, anti-trust actions, consumer protection, and a whole lot more, conflicts between certain management or business and the government arise.

This happens because the government is required to monitor the activities of organizations within their area of interest. So if there is something that the two parties do not agree of, there is a high chance for conflicts to develop and harm their images.

Management to Management Conflict

An organization might have problems with another organization because of competition. They both need to strive and do well in the market, so there is a chance for them to butt heads with each other and consider each other as their enemy.

Some examples for this to occur are:

  • War over patent or trademark
  • Problems related to their contracts and paperwork
  • Price wars – which management can provide the lowest price for consumers

Inter-Union Conflict

This type of organizational conflict arises between real labor organizations that involve fighting over jobs and members.

Union to Government Conflict

It is a conflict where the unions start to be scrutinized and thoroughly inspected by the people who are working for the government. They check for any illegal activities within the union, such as discrimination, criminal activities, illegal strikes, and others.

Union to Management Conflict

This is a beneficial type of conflict. As we all know it, conflict is an essential factor that helps a union in surviving because the absence of it will lead to a weaker union. In other words, conflict and disagreement are vital for the continued institutional ties between a management and a union.

Some forms of conflicts between a union and a management include the following:

  • Peaceful bargains
  • Strikes
  • Protests
  • Debates
  • Absenteeism

2 Major Factors to Fix Conflict

Yes, conflicts and problems are unavoidable, but we must do our best to resolve them. Here are two major factors that can help you fix your conflicts:

Communicate

Start talking with each other and calmly state how you feel, why you feel it, and what you need to feel better. Likewise, let the other person share their feelings. After doing so, try to figure out ways on how you can be civil and calm inside the office.

Listen Carefully; Don’t Just Hear Them.

When a person or a group is trying to tell you something, listen intently to what they are saying. It is easy to hear them and not absorb anything that they are saying, but listening is a skill that you have to master as a professional employee.

Do your best not to interrupt someone who is speaking. Politely wait for them to finish talking and start expressing yourself then. Also, ask questions if you do not understand something completely. It is best to avoid confusion, so do your best to clarify anything before finishing a conversation.

Type of Conflict References

  • 2018. How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace. www.blink.ucsd.edu
  • Priyadarshir, S. What Are the Potential Causes of Inter-Group Conflict? www.yourarticlelibrary.com
  • Minakshi, B. Types of Conflict in Organizations (with causes and remedies). www.economicsdiscussion.net
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About the author

Jess Man

Jessica is the Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diversity Advisor at Diversity Social. Jessica has over 10 years of working with and advising employers to be more diverse and create an inclusive working environment.
Jessica's experience spans private and non-profit sectors in multiple industries.
Jessica's expertise experience is beyond Diversity & Inclusion, she is also a certified professional IT recruiter in Data & Analytics, Database administration, Artificial Intelligence area.