Nature and Sources of Conflicts

Conflict can arise from a variety of sources. They can be classified into two broad categories: Structural factors, which stem from the nature of the organization and the way in which work is organized and Personal factors, which arise from differences among individuals. The causes/ sources of conflict can be summarized with two categories.

1. Structural Factors
  • Specialization: When jobs are highly specialized, employees become experts at certain tasks. For example in case of a software company, while there is one specialist for databases, another for statistical packages, and yet another for expert systems. As the highly specialized people have little awareness of the tasks that others perform, such a case leads to conflict among the specialists. 
  • Interdependence: Interdependence occurs when two or more groups depend on each other to accomplish their tasks. Depending on other people to work done is good when the process works smoothly. However, when problem arise, it becomes easy to blame other party, and as such, conflict escalates. The potential of conflict increases as the degree of interdependence increases. 
  • Goal Differences: Sometimes different work groups having different goals have incompatible goals. For example, in a cable television company, the sales person's goal was to sell as many new installations as possible. This created problem for the service department, because its goal was timely installations.
  • Jurisdictional Ambiguities: It refers to the presence of unclear lines of responsibility within an organization. Recall, we have contacted our own college administration for some problem and we have been asked to go to different people and departments? This happens because of the jurisdictional ambiguities among the departments. 
2. Personal Factors
  • Skills and Abilities: Work force in an organization/ department is composed of people with varying levels of skills and abilities. Such diversity in skills and abilities leads to conflict, especially when jobs are interdependent. Workers may find it difficult to work with a new boss, fresh from University knowing a lot about managing people but unfamiliar with the technology they are working. 
  • Personalities: Personality also causes individual differences. It is differences in personality that neither the manager likes all of his co-managers and subordinates nor all of them like the manager. This creates conflict among them. Research studies report that usually an abrasive personality is rejected by others. An abrasive person is one who ignores the interpersonal aspects of work and feelings of colleagues. 
  • Perception: Like personality, differences in perceptions can also lead to conflict. One are in which perceptions can, for example, differ may be the perception of what motivates employees. Managers, for example, usually provide what they think employees want rather than what employees really want.
  • Values and Ethics: People also hold different beliefs and adhere to different value system. Older workers, for example, value company loyalty and probably would not take a sick day when they were not really sick/ ill. But, the younger workers, valuing mobility, may be taken a sick day to get away from work. 
  • Emotion: The moods of the people can also be a source of conflict in the work place. Problems of home often spill over into the work arena, and the related moods can be hard for others to deal with.
  • Communication barriers: Communication barriers such as physical separation and language can create distortions in messages, and these, in turn, can lead to conflict. Value judgment also sometimes serves as barrier.

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