Group Conflicts – Meaning and Sources of Conflict

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 8: Group Dynamics

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4




Conflict is a Psychological state of mind. It is used by different people to convey different meanings. For instance “Conflict in mind” conveys that the individual is in a state of dilemma over a certain issue and is not able to arrive at any decision. “Conflicting views” denotes difference of opinions between two or more persons or groups. The word conflict is often considered as equal to ‘quarrel’ and ‘fight’, but they are not synonyms to conflict. It represents the clash in the less literal sense between goals, ideas, ideologies and actions. Conflict may broadly be viewed as a breakdown in the standard mechanism of decision making. 

Conflict is a true perceived difference of value between two or more parties that result in mutual opposition. It implies incompatible behaviour. It is a process in which one deliberately tries to offset the efforts of others by some form of blocking that will result in frustration in attaining goals. So, we reveal some features of conflict:

Features of conflict

1. Incompatibility:

There are two or more parties whose interests or goals appear to be incompatible.

2. Perception:

Conflict arises out of perceptions.

3. Blocking:

Conflict refers to deliberate behaviour mainly done, to prevent another from attaining its goal.

4. Scarcity:

Due to scarce resources, conflict takes place.

Team Conflict / Group Conflict is an interpersonal problem that occurs between two or more members of a team, and affects results of teamwork, so the team does not perform at optimum levels. Team conflicts are caused by the situation when the balance between perceptions, goals, or/and values of the team is upset, therefore people can no more work together and no shared goals can be achieved in the team environment.

Conflict in the workplace can have a negative effect on the day-to-day working of your business, or result in a large-scale strike or other employment dispute. It can also affect the general health and wellbeing of your employees.

Definition of conflict

“Conflict is a process which begin when one party perceives that the another party has negatively affected or is about to negatively affect, something that first party cares about.” – Thomas


“Conflict is the appearance of difference – difference  of opinions of interest.” – Follett

Nature of conflict

  1. It occurs when individuals are not able to choose among the available courses of actions. 
  2. When conflicting perception, values and goals exist. 
  3. It is a dynamic process as it indicates a series of events. 
  4. It is perceived by two parties or more than two parties. 

Conflict Aftermath

Depending upon how the conflict was handled the aftermath of conflict may be positive or negative. If the conflict is properly resolved it will lead to harmonious relationships in the organization which will enhance the organizational functioning. But if not resolved it may explode to serious form unless rectified. This conflict episode is called conflict aftermath.

Transitions in view of conflict

Traditional View:

Earlier assumed that all conflicts were bad. It was viewed negatively. It was termed the same as violence, destruction. Conflict was harmful and was to be avoided.

Human Relation View

They view that conflict was a natural occurrence in all groups and organizations. Since conflict was inevitable, acceptance of conflict is welcomed.

Interactionist View / Modern Viewpoint

Conflict is not only a positive force in a group but is also necessary for a group to perform effectively. It encourages conflict on the grounds that a harmonious, peaceful and cooperative group is prone to becoming static and non-responsive to needs for change and innovation.

There are two forms of conflict as per interactionist view

a. Functional conflict -

Supports the goal of the group and improves its performance. It generally involves people who are genuinely interested in solving a problem and are willing to listen to one another.

b. Dysfunctional conflict

They view that conflict was a natural occurrence in all groups and organizations. Since conflict was inevitable, acceptance of conflict is welcomed.

Sources of Conflict

Sources of conflict can be classified into two

1. Personal factors – are related to problems based on individual indifferences.

2. Organizational factors – are related to problems arising out of characteristics of the organizational and functional differences

1. Personal Factors:

a. Individual differences

As we all are aware that no two individuals are alike. They differ in their attitude and behaviour. Some are ambitious and some are not. So, their difference in their thinking behaviour may lead to interpersonal conflict.

b. Perceptual differences

Individuals interpret the way things are going on in their environment in different manners. The perception employees have of the event surrounding them in their work environment has a direct impact bearing upon the development or avoidance of the conflict. 

2. Organizational Factors:

a. Structure

The structure involving the size, specialization and standardization in the task, level of dependence, leadership styles are some of the potential sources of conflict within the organization. So, dependence on others creates conflict in the organization.

b. Communication

Communication can be the major source of conflict. It can arise from language problems, insufficient exchange of information, misunderstandings and noise. Communication gap hampers collaboration and fosters misunderstanding.

c. Change

Implementation of new technology can lead to a stressful change. Workers who do not adapt well to change can become overly stressed, which increases the likelihood of conflict in organizations.

d. Limited Resources

Employees may feel that they are competing against each other for resources, which can create friction in the workplace. 

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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