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Types and Severity of Conflict Situations

Conflict is often viewed as a negative clash between two or more groups or individuals. Because people can have different ideas, values, goals, and attitudes, conflict of some form occurs in just about any social, business, or political interaction.

Causes of conflicts

Some typical causes of conflicts are as follows:

  • disagreements over tasks — Conflict can arise over any perceived unfairness in the distribution of tasks and responsibilities.
  • differences in values — Everyone is brought up differently and, as a result, has developed their own personal, cultural, or societal values. So it stands to reason that in situations where unique individuals come together, as in a workplace, conflict is bound to arise.
  • differences in goals — The types of goals that can cause conflicts include personal goals and organizational goals.
  • poor communication — Poor communication can very easily lead to conflict.
  • scarce resources — The resource that may contribute to conflict are office space, supplies, the boss’s time, or the fund allocation. Everyone wants their share in order to meet job demands. And when resources are scarce, conflicts are more likely to arise. Conflict arises as those who don’t have access need to ask others to get the information they need.

Conflict types

Conflict can be divided into two basic types:

Substantive conflict, also referred to as cognitive conflict, refers to contrasting ideas, decisions, or actions related to the work that has to be carried out or the interests of the parties involved. This type of conflict typically involves disagreement about individual viewpoints, interpretations of strategy, how to use resources, and the application of policies.

Personal conflict, which is also called affective conflict, pertains to relationships with others. It occurs when there is hostility, frustration, or personality clashes between individuals, caused by personal concerns, social issues, values, emotional states, and perceptions.

It’s important to be able to respond appropriately to each type, because conflict can negatively affect an organization through the behavior of the parties involved. These behaviors can range in severity from minor disagreements to major disputes:

  • Minor conflicts — or disagreements — are characterized by a low level of dissatisfaction, difference in thinking, dissent, or unmet expectations. These may be obvious or not. But they can exist among individuals who are friendly and have common goals — just different views.
  • More severe conflicts — or disputes — are typically accompanied by outright arguments and fights over issues, opposing positions, and expectations for relief. Friendships may be severed during disputes and the parties typically have different objectives.