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Causes of Conflicts in the Workplace


Conflicts in organizations are a well-known cause of diminished productivity and it is therefore important to understand the factors that may cause conflicts. A brief discussion of the various factors that can result in conflict arousal is given below; 1) Organizational Structure The structure of an organization can become a cause of conflicts. Various departments in an organization function in an interdependent fashion. For this reason, it is likely that members of a particular department may not act in accordance to the expectations of another department, thereby creating a sense of dissatisfaction which may result in conflicts. 2) Task Interdependence The completion of different components of an ongoing project may be the responsibility of different members of a team. When a member of the team fails to deliver his part of the project in a timely manner, the others may suffer due to this delay. Such interdependence of tasks is often a cause of conflicts.

3) Differences in Perception The way in which a person perceives other’s behaviors, emotions and words is unique. A person’s perception is dependent upon a number of factors like socioeconomic status, education level, cultural background, racial differences and social class. What may be considered normal by one individual may be offensive for the other; an aspect that can give rise to differences and hence conflicts. 4) Task Ambiguity It is quite common for employees to make assumptions that are not shared by their colleagues. An employee may assume that it is another colleague’s responsibility to communicate an issue to all team members, while the colleague may be totally unaware of this assumption; a scenario that may give rise to a conflict. 5) Competing Interests In any organization, individuals possessing a similar skill set are often fierce competitors. This type of competition may pave way for conflicts when competitors struggle to win their favorite projects or strive for promotion to higher ranks. 6) Performance Deficiencies An employee’s under-performance in a team may provoke feelings of discontent in other members of the team. This is especially true in tasks having high visibility, where the chances of remaining hidden are less. 7) Scarcity of Resources This can be regarded as a cause of conflict that is common to nearly all workplaces. Individuals within organizations struggle to gain control of more and more resources, since this directly impacts their level of influence on others. 8) Poor Communication Communication within an organization functions to eliminate uncertainty among individuals. Poor communication among employees increases friction because of the stress that results due to the feeling being uninformed. 9) Failure to Follow the Rules of a Team Teams go through the stages of forming, storming, norming and performing. Every professional team has its own norms and when a team member acts in a way that does not align with the norms of the team, conflict is likely to ensue. 10) Struggle for Supremacy Employees working in an organization are in a continuous struggle to achieve superior ranks, since individuals working on higher positions possess more control over the available resources. This sense of competing with other individuals may give rise to conflicts of fierce nature. 11) Self Esteem and Psychological Factors Every individual’s response to the behavior of others is different. Some individuals are more vulnerable to other’s behaviors and may therefore perceive some behaviors as being offensive, thus paving way for conflicts to arise. 12) Incompatible Goals/Priorities Since priorities of every working individual or department are different, they may approach the same situation from totally different perspectives. One team in an organization may give more importance to ‘punctuality’ instead of giving importance to ‘quality’, while the other team may take on a totally opposite approach and struggle to provide ‘quality’, even if they fail to meet a deadline. Incompatibilities of this sort may give rise to conflicts. 13) Unresolved Prior Conflicts Resolution of conflicts should be an ongoing process. Unresolved conflicts may add to the burden of grudges that employees hold against each other. Therefore, with the passage of time such antipathies may result in conflicts of severe nature. 14) Lack of cooperation Since successful completion of projects demands extensive teamwork, a lack of cooperation by the members of the team may cause the projects to fail. Lack of cooperation therefore becomes a cause of conflicts within the organizations. 15) Ethnic, Social or Religious Differences Differences in the social conditions of individuals can affect their behaviors. Likewise, different belief systems also exert their impact on the behaviors of individuals in an organization. Ethnic differences may also be regarded as a factor that shape behaviors. Since the effect of these factors is profoundly embedded in the personalities of employees, they can contribute to differences which may ultimately give rise of conflicts. 16) Differences over Facts Members of a group may disagree about facts and therefore form opinions that are diverse in nature. This diversity or disagreement about facts may give rise to conflicts within organizations. 17) Unfulfilled Expectations Relational breakdown often stems from expectations that go unfulfilled. Organizational strife results when expectations of team members are not met.


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