Organisational Conflict 3000 words

“With reference to the co-ordination–conflict model, critically discuss the bases for this conflict and the co-ordination strategies that might be used to facilitate an effective working relationship between the two groups”


Table of Content


Introduction. 2

  1. Literature review.. 3
  2. Factors Influencing Organisational Conflicts. 4

3.1. Role conflicts. 5

3.2. Cultural Differences and Violation of Territory. 5

3.3. Work Pattern. 6

3.4. Limited Resources. 6

3.5. Perception. 7

3.6. Unfair Treatment 7

  1. Resolving conflicts. 7

4.1. Set Goals and Objectives. 8

4.2. Distribution of Resource. 9

4.3. Group Activities. 9

4.4. Policies and Procedures for Human Resource Management 9

  1. Outcome of Organisational Conflicts. 10

5.1. Positive outcome. 10

5.2. Negative Outcomes. 10

Conclusion. 11

Appendices. 12



  1. Introduction

The study of people’s behaviour in organisations as individuals or as a group has become one of the most important parts in managing organisations and decision making.

This report gives a literature review on organisational behaviour and its definitions as defined by Mullins (2002). It also gives a review on how people’s behaviours are studied in relationship with other internal and external aspects of organisations and what factors can influence differences in behaviours which might lead to conflicts.

The main focus of this report is conflicts and how they can be managed by organisations. The first part of the report gives an overview of the sources of conflicts in organisations which include: role conflict, perception, unfair treatment, cultural difference and violation of territory, limited resources and work pattern. These factors will influence conflicts in organisations that might lead to a negative of positive outcome.

The report later looks at how the conflicts in organisations can be resolved by management. It goes further to explain that a well managed conflict can lead to a successful organisation which might give a good feeling or perception about the company using the Co-ordination Conflict Model. This model will be used to determine how managers can co-ordinate conflicts in an organisation. The report shows that conflicts do not just lead to negative outcomes but also to positive outcomes that might benefit the company. Cooperate conflicts will be looked at including those that can lead to efficiency and creativity. Finally a conclusion would be given.  Are conflicts always what people perceive whenever they come cross this situation? The main aim of this report is to show how when conflicts are managed, they can lead to different outcomes as seen on the Co-ordination Conflict Model.




2. Literature review

Organisational behaviour is the study of people’s behaviour as individuals or a group in an organisation in order to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation (Mullins, 2002). This is one of the most complex and dynamic aspect of general management and should be considered when making decisions and carrying out actions in an organisation (Mullins, 2002).


People’s behaviours in an organisation cannot be studied in isolation; they should be studied in relationship to the task undertaken, management process, external environment, methods of carrying out work and the technology employed (Mullins, 2002).


The individual’s behaviour in an organisation can be influenced by a number of factors which include: the individuals themselves, the organisation, the group where they belong and the environment (Mullins, 2002). Management should therefore try to balance the interrelationship that exists within the organisation and try to match them with the external environment where the organisation operates to avoid any differences that might occur (Mullins, 2002). If these elements are not well managed, they might lead to differences or conflicts between individuals or groups depending on the type of conflict that might occur (Mullins, 2002).

Organisational conflict is one of an organisation’s major phenomena that describes differences that may occur as a result of scarce resources and goal divergence by people with incompatible interests from each other in achieving these goals (Mack and Snyder, 1957; Lewicki et al, 1997; Tjosvold, 2006)


Conflicts can be seen as a dysfunctional outcome in a company that arise as a result of poor communication and personality clashes that should be managed in the development of an organisation (Mullins, 2002).

There are mixed motives about conflicts, where some people have cooperative interests (the willingness to bargain to reach an agreement) and others competitive interests (that bring about conflicts) ((Deutsch and Krauss, 1962; Tjosvold, 2006)

Conflict is exercised by the independent experiencing of negative emotions because of perceived differences between individuals or groups (Barki and Hartwick, 2004; De Dreu et al., 1999)

Conflicts are mostly seen as something that represent negative differences and incompatible goals, but on the other hand, they could be seen as critical, independent issues that could be coordinated to exchange ideas and support decision making (Tjosvold, 2006). Mullins (2002) also describes conflicts as an agent of evolution and a constructive force that can be used in organisations to improve functions in the organisations to carry out decision making and for internal and external growth.


3. Factors Influencing Organisational Conflicts

The differences that occur between individuals and groups in an organisation can be influenced by a lot of factors that are very common in organisations. These sources of organisational conflicts could be seen in everyday life in most organisations today

3.1. Role conflicts

The role is way people expect someone in a particular position to behave and act (Mullins, 2007). Conflicts usually arise within an organisation if there is role incompatibility and role ambiguity because of inappropriate and inadequate role definition (Mullins, 2007; Tidd et al, 2000). Role ambiguity occurs when the individual or a group occupying a role lack adequate information about the tasks and how to complete them and are also unsure what to do (Tidd et al, 2000; Mullins, 2002). The individual or group in this position may be unsure of what to do or have a different perspective of the role than expected from others and may lack feedback from others, which might have helped to understand the role better (Tidd et al, 2000).

Role conflicts does not only comprise of role ambiguity, but also of role overload and role incompatibility (Mullins, 2002).

Task conflicts can be seen as differences that occur “about the content of the tasks being performed, including differences in viewpoints, ideas, and opinions” (Jehn, 1995)

This occurs mainly with newly appointed individuals like head of departments. They usually do not have a good knowledge of their role or are unsure what to do, especially those who have not worked as frontline employees before. Newly appointed individuals always face role conflicts because they do not know the extent of their responsibility and authority, the work standard expected or how performances are measured (Mullins, 2002)


3.2. Cultural Differences and Violation of Territory

An organisation comprises different cultures which might come as a result of individuals or groups building norms and values that will govern them. There are basically three levels of organisational culture: artefacts (physical space layout, written and spoken language and technologically output), Values (how to deal with issues) and basic underlining assumptions (guides to behaviour and perception about how members think and feel) (Mullins, 2002). Different groups and departments have their different values that govern them on how they work and it suits them just fine. A violation of territory could occur when a member from a different culture tries to intervene in another culture by breaking some rules. In an organisation, conflict could be caused if a member of a department wants to impose his/her own ideas on what he/she thinks is right in another department. When individual become comfortable with their working environment, it becomes difficult to break the norm or value the guides the way work is being done. Violation if territory might also occur in cases where the organisation decided to put two departments in one room or one building.


3.3. Work Pattern

Conflicts also arise as a result of a department in an organisation being dependent on the work and outcome of another department for their work to be done (Mullins, 2002). When performance level of one department is very low, it causes conflicts with other departments. In the case of a university, the job of the examination board sitting depends on the lecturers making sure they have gone through all examination papers have allocated marks for each student. The marking standards are expected to be high and meet the university’s criteria. If the exams have not been marked to the standard required, it might cause conflict because the lecturer might be termed inefficient and incapable. A similar thing happens in other organisations where individuals might have conflicts with others because they have not done their jobs and are therefore making it difficult for others.


3.4. Limited Resources

Limited resources always cause conflicts in organisations where individuals have to fight for a share of the resources to make their work more effective and efficient (Mullins, 2002). Departments in universities always face this kind of conflict. University departments are always rated to find out which is the best department in the university and also for end of year rewards. Departments with little rating always fight for budgets and other resources to improve on themselves. A conflict might also occur if highly rated departments are given more resources than the lowly rated departments because they think the university should sponsor lowly rated departments to be better. This conflicts also happens in companies as each department tries to improve on their departmental performance

3.5. Perception

Conflicts can arise because of the way people see, interpret, judge and analyse things and ideas that are brought forward (Mullins, 2002). Mullins (2002) explains that perception is the root of organisational behaviour and study because it is based on how people behave and see things in an organisation.

Some people see things in a way that might benefit just them or their group and not others. This causes others to object to their opinion and bring in their own perception on how they see things causing conflicts between parties.

In a University, individuals might have their own way they think students should be taught and how the syllabus should be laid out maybe for their own convenience or because they thing it is the best way to do it. This might cause conflicts between lecturers and their departments, or departments and the administrator. The same also happens in companies where groups might have different paths of achieving group goals and groups might have different ways of achieving goals different from those of the department. They may also have different ways they think problems should be handled.

3.6. Unfair Treatment

Individuals or groups might cause conflicts if they find out they are being treated unfairly in terms of policies, rewards and punishment (Mullins, 2002). This kind of unfair treatment happens in every organisation in one way or another. This happens in companies with other departments being paid more attention to by equipping them more than others. Most departments might think too much attention is being paid to research and development team and little on the sales team. The research and development team might have all the equipment they need while the sales team lacks a lot to carry out their jobs. This might lead to conflicts between the two teams.

4. Resolving conflicts

Figure 1


According to the co-ordination conflict model above, difference in organisations should be well co-ordinated. If not well managed, it might lead to an unsuccessful organisation. People might develop a negative perception about the organisation both internally and externally. When this happens, the organisation has to develop ways of resolving these conflicts in the organisation to give it a good ‘feeling’. On the other hand, the model illustrates that if an organisation co-ordinates its differences well, this might lead to positive outcomes and a successful organisation. The perception and feeling about the organisation might be positive. In this case, the company might have to stimulate conflicts that might lead to positive outcomes in terms of innovation and creativity. Conflicts resolution can be carried out as follows;

4.1. Set Goals and Objectives

Organisations should set an organisational goals and objective for the organisation so that each individual or group has a direction on where they are heading to; and these goals and objective should be well understood by everyone in the organisation (Mullins, 2007; Brooks, 2006). A company should be able to set goals for the organisation so that employees and departments should be working towards that goal. They should make sure each groups should know why they are working there and what they should achieve at a certain period of time. Companies also set goals for each department to achieve in terms of performance. Individuals are groups should be made known that their objectives should be driving to a company’s common goal. Setting goals is a co-ordination process.


4.2. Distribution of Resource

Managers in companies should be able to locate resources evenly and also to create a formal way where individual and groups can submit appeals concerning resources (Mullins, 2007). There should be procedures on resources a location and the way appeals are being made concerning resources. This is part of the co-ordination section as seen on the model above in figure 1. This reducing conflicts in any organisation. Every company should set procedures for appeal for resources that every department or group and why not individuals have to follow.


4.3. Group Activities

Activities with groups and between groups should be carried by encouraging them to work together for the organisation’s goals (Mullins, 2002; 2007). This is part of the co-ordination section as seen on the model above in figure 1. Co-ordination of activities can help groups to work together for a more successful outcome. Organisations can co-ordinate their departments by encouraging them to share resources and ideas so they can work together. Such activities can also help in developing individual and group skills.


4.4. Policies and Procedures for Human Resource Management

This requires organisations to put certain details on human resource management that might help to reduced role ambiguity and overload (Mullins, 2002). Certain information for performing a particular role should be made available to the individual or group (Tidd et al, 2000). There are two things the organisation has to make sure the individual have knowledge about: first, they must know what they should expect in the role, and secondly, they must know the activities involved and what their ability, knowledge responsibilities are to carry out this expectations (Tidd, 2000)


5. Outcome of Organisational Conflicts

5.1. Positive outcome

Well managed conflicts can lead to positive outcomes which can be of benefit to the organisation. This kind of conflict is known as cooperative context of conflict where conflicts could be used to resolve issues, improve quality in periods of limited resources and strengthen relationships (Poon et al, 2001; Tjosvold, 2006)

For example, British Petroleum (BP) divided the group into 150 units which are also divided in to 15 peer groups (Bartlett et al, 2004). These Business units are always in conflict with each other and always set challenges for each other in their peer group, but what makes BP more successful is that these challenges help the groups and conflicts makes the groups more creative and at the end of the day the most successful units help those with least performance to improve (Bartlett et al, 2004).

When groups are in conflict, it motivates them to search for new approaches to produce better ideas (Mullins, 2002). Long unsolved problems could be resolved during conflict management as groups become clear about each other’s view on how they look at a situation (Mullins, 2007). Conflicts that are well managed might lead to people looking for new ideas which might stimulate creativity and give opportunities for them to test their ideas (Mullins, 2002; 2007)

This proves that conflicts are not just negative to a company, but can also play a positive role.


5.2. Negative Outcomes

Conflicts have been linked to a number of negative and undesirable outcomes in groups and the organisation as a whole which includes: decreased performance, increased work stress, high levels of absenteeism and decreased job satisfaction to name a few (Tidd et al, 2000; De Dreu et al, 1999; Mullins, 2002; 2007).

Negative outcomes in an organisation come as a result of competitive conflict where groups fight for a win-lose outcome (Tjosvold, 2006). Individuals or groups response to conflict depends on the response of the other groups or the outcome of the conflict. There is a close relationship between conflict and well being on groups or individuals in a group (De Dreu et al, 2000). Conflicts can result from individuals’ unethical behaviour towards other members or employees, time pressure, stress and change in the way they carry out their jobs (De Dreu et al, 2000). Stress can lead to a number of different things that an individual would experience concerning their health including, raised heart beats, tense muscles and headaches (De Dreu et al, 2000).

Conflicts in organisations make others feel defeated especially when their ideas are not being taken into consideration. Conflicts create distant relationships between groups and individuals in an organisation forcing groups to concentrate on their own narrow interests bring about resistance to development (Mullins, 2002; 2007). As a result of employees not being satisfied with their jobs, the company experiences an increase in employee turn over because employees tend to leave the organisation (Mullins, 2002; 2007). This will cost the company a lot as they will spend more on job advertisement and recruitment and selection process.








This report has looked at some literature reviews about organisational behaviour and how differences might lead to conflicts. The report has also looked at some sources of conflicts that have been identified by Mullins (2002; 2007) that most organisations can also identify with. It has also explained how these conflicts can arise, giving examples of universities and companies in general.

The report also looked at how these identified conflicts can be resolved by management using the co-ordination conflict model in figure 1. A number of co-ordinations strategies were suggested including: set goals and objectives, distribution of resources, group activities and human resources management policies. The outcome of conflicts was later discussed in relationship with the Model. The outcome included both positive and negative outcome also known as cooperate and competitive conflicts. From the report, it was explained that cooperative conflicts leads to positive outcomes where groups tend to search for new ideas and be creative to improve performance while competitive conflicts lead to negative outcomes where conflicts can affect the well-being of employees and lead to poor performance

To conclude, the word ‘conflict’ always appears to have a negative meaning but in organisations, companies usually make room or create conflicts between groups or individuals to encourage creativity and innovation. The question here is, to what extent can organisation allow conflicts? Managers should know when to encourage conflicts and when they have to stop given the outcome of the conflicts created.









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