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Organizational conflict Essay

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Updated: May 25th, 2020


There are different definitions of conflict, but the widely acknowledged definition is that it is an intentional mutual exchange of all sanctions that are considered negative or punitive by two or more parties which may be individuals or groups of individuals. Conflict is an important aspect in an organization which though inevitable can be controlled or regulated. Based on theorists, conflict can be positive or negative (Poulin, 2009, p. 269).

Definition and Theories of Leadership and Management

Leadership involves influencing people toward the realization of organizational objectives. Origin of leadership power may include legitimate, reward, referent, coercive and expert power. There are three models of leadership: behavioral, contingent and traits model. Traits model, from its name implies that personality traits are important in influencing the responsibility and the success of a leader.

Behavioral model on the other hand explains that the relationship between the leader and the subordinates will determine how effective that leadership is, it further posits that there are certain leadership attributes that are necessary for accomplishment of particular tasks and realization of organizational goals.

Contingency model stresses the importance of closed linkage that characterizes the relationship between the organization’s leaders, subordinates and groups (Craighead & Nemeroff, 2002, p. 1116).

Virtually all organizations on the globe experience some conflicts. In the time of transitions, various organizations are faced with problems which stress the progress of the organization and if the conflict is managed well it may result in the growth of the organization. For organizations to survive during times of conflict, the leadership needs to develop good long term strategies that are all inclusive.

Conflict in organizations should not be considered in isolation but should be seen in a wider context by relating it with issues like the leadership style of the organization and its value system, which is what the organizations stand for and how it intends to achieve it. It is the duty of the leadership to identify the parties to the conflict and analyses their interests. The key issues that a leader should analyze to solve organizational conflicts are:

First, the leader should understand the direction of the organization: this involves analyzing the mission and the vision of the organization and how individual values and aspirations can be streamlined to be in line with the organization’s values. The leadership should also decipher whether the conflict is about resources. It is also imperative to consider the type of dominant leadership in the organization as well as the management style.

This may encompass factors like whether the leadership is autocratic or one that actively involves everyone in decision making and whether they demonstrate cooperative styles that involve showing concern for individuals and whether they practice what they preach.

Furthermore, it is imperative to analyze whether the organizational structure is conducive to conflict. The factors to be considered in this aspect are whether the organization’s departments are competing with each other or whether there might be situations in organizations where employees are not in communication; or whether individuals have negative stereotypes of other employees an action which can be demoralizing.

It is also good to consider the reward system or the motivational aspect of the society when analyzing conflict. The people should be rewarded for their efforts, whether individually or as a team. This will serve to motivate the employees and sway them away from conflict (Osler, 1993, p. 15).

Contingency approach is considered the best theory in explaining management of conflicts in organizations; this theory facilitates decision making, leadership and motivation of employees. The contingency approach may otherwise be referred to as situational approach. This theory considers all the types of leadership relevant and appropriate based the situation that they are applied in.

This approach analyses two fundamental situations: the quality of the decisions and the acceptance to implement, which is the degree of commitment by the employees toward implementation. This, therefore, implies that an effective leadership style should be in line with the organization’s leadership styles situations.

This theory in the context of conflict management in an organization implies that a conflict situation is characterized by poor quality of decision making and acceptance. Other theories of organizational conflict management are path-goal theory and Vroom and Yetton’s theory of decision making (Rahim, 2001, p. 87).

Unlike classical and neo classical theories whose theorists consider conflict as a phenomenon to be avoided, contingency theorists consider conflict as an unavoidable but can be managed.

Definition and Theories of Motivation

Motivation is understood in the following terms: it is understood as a force that can energize, direct and sustain behavior. As an energizer, motivation initiates and sets the behavioral pattern of an individual. It determines the degree of effort and how hard that person can work. It is motivation that defines the degree of hard work in an organization. Consequently, motivation is what can direct human behavior.

It is this aspect of motivation that determines choice and conflict in an organization since it enables an individual to choose from several competing alternatives. As a sustainer of behavior, motivation defines the degree of persistence of an individual regarding some various behavioral patterns.

It determines how behavior should be sustained or how and why it should be quit. There are several motivational theories that can be used to analyze conflict in an organization. These theories are:

Need theories: these theories posit that any form of unsatisfied urge can be a source of individual motivation and human beings only take action on a particular need that they believe that it can facilitate them towards achieving certain goals. The need theories are categorized into three: Maslow hierarchy of needs, Alderfers ERG theory and Murray manifest theory of need.

Maslow theory operates on two principles: the deficit principle and the progression principle. Concerning the deficit principle, a satisfied need stops motivating human behavior because people only work to satisfy the needs they are deprived. Progression principle posits that the five needs of Maslow have to be satisfied as per the hierarchy.

Self-concept motivational theory: this theory describes motivation of employees in terms of their needs to validate their self- concept. It defines individual perception together with personal competencies, traits and his values. Among the categories of theories falling under this theory is: self-concept external theories which describe three types of external validation which are, acceptance, worth and status.

There is also the self-concept internal theory which is explained by the following two types; competencies and values. There is also the Herzberg’s theory of two-factor which explains the motivational aspect of work environment. In this theory, Herzberg identified two forms of motivation that can influence the motivation of an individual in a workplace environment.

These are hygiene factors and satisfiers. Hygiene factors include salary, job security and the conditions of workplace together with the policies of the organization and the quality of the supervision. Satisfiers include such aspects of an organization like responsibility and achievement. It is the responsibility of the managers to ensure that the hygiene factors in an organization are well catered for while satisfiers are built.

Motivation is a complicated phenomenon, and various theories have been formulated to describe motivation. In organizational context, motivation is defined on the basis of the needs of an individual. The need model and particularly the content theory of motivation explains various factors that can motivate an individual; these factors are considered to be innate.

This might result to incongruence or misfit habit of an employee, and it may prolong role conflict in an organization leading the demonstration of burnout. Role conflict might result when an individual experiences frustration due to his inability to meet the organization goals and objectives (Miner, 2011, p. 171).

Organizational and Individual Goals from the Perspective of Stakeholders

A success or a failure of an organization is highly dependent on indigenous and collective energies. An organization with well formulated procedures and harmonious organizational structure experiences greater chances of achieving organizational goals. The existence of internal and external conflicts is likely to drain the energies of organizational employees and hence undermine the link between success and failure.

It is therefore the responsibility of an organizational management team to harness the energies of the workers towards realizing organizational objectives by diverting the resources from conflict to the implementation of goals.

Organizational conflict takes place at both group and individual levels and hence it is upon the leadership to diagnosis the cause of a conflict and how to effectively tackle it. In every organization, there are two forms of conflict: career-oriented kind of organizational conflict and an ideologically oriented organizational conflict. These are expounded further by various theories of organizational conflict (Brooklyn, 1975, p. 18).

In the contemporary world, businesses operate in a volatile environment where business organizations are searching for measures which will permit them to enhance their performance and to improve their competitiveness in the market.

Organizational conflict is regarded to as a fork of disagreement concerning interest s and ideas; it is also considered a form of incompatibility between the various goals and interests of the diverse organizational organizations. Organizational conflict is regarded as an inevitable factor in any organization.

Conflicts can emanate from competition for scarce resources by organizational employees. This paper will discuss on how motivation, organizational style of leadership and organizational structure can contribute to conflict in an organization.

It will also discuss in detail what the causes of conflict in an organization are; types of conflict, effects and also recommendations will be provided regarding various ways of solving organizational conflicts so as to enhance the performance of an organization (Ongori, 2009, p. 17).

Major Causes of Organizational Conflict

None of the literature about organizational conflict makes explicit the major causes of organizational conflict, however in general; there are six causes of organizational conflict, these are: interpersonal disagreement which can be experienced due to individual stress, role conflict which often occurs when there is a clash between individual roles and the organizational roles, the power conflict which is considered to be a conflict between one group in the organization and another group, this type of conflict is purely motivated by selfishness of the groups; there is also conflict of differentiation which occurs as a result of diversity in approaching particular common problems that afflict the organization (Brooklyn, 1975, p. 18).

These kinds of conflict can be lumped into three namely: task conflict, interpersonal conflict and procedural conflict. There are those who perceive conflict as a negative force that operates against successful accomplishment of organization’s common objectives, it can consequently create negative impact which will lead to the realization of successful completion of projects.

It is the duty of the management to resolve conflict so as to facilitate the achievement of better organizational performance. Conflicts can affect organizations performance and the sharing of resources.

Organizational Structure

Most of the organizations follow the bureaucratic structure which was a concept by Max Weber but modern organizations have moved away from this system due to the fact that most organizations are becoming complex, where a company is organized into some few decentralized and independent units (Griffin & Moorhead, 2011, p. 49).

Case Study: Texana Petroleum Corporation

Texana Petroleum Corporation is a major producer and marketer of oil. It is located in USA and has five divisions namely: the petroleum products divisions, the polymer and chemicals division, the molded products division, the packaging division and the building products division.

Texana petroleum is a perfect example of how leadership operates in multidivisional organizational structure. It will seek to identify and illustrate that conflict and politics grow in such an environment that lacks relevant control systems. As a petroleum company, Texana attempts to maximize productivity through the sharing of resources between the divisions.

These divisions can be at times at conflict while pursuing their self-interests. Texana practices a system of vertical integration strategy with diversifications in plastic-based consumer products. It is this consumer products division which is referred as the polychemicals division that can coordinate the resources of the company. The case study will discuss organizational conflict in the context of Texana Petroleum Corporation.

Since the corporation has various divisions, it is the imbalance in the distribution of power between these divisions that often leads to conflict. These conflicts are associated with loss of energies among employees and the reduction the organizational performance. The main sources of organizational conflict in Texana are:

Disparities in divisional orientations: Polychemicals, which is the powerful division because it controls resources, operates in a centralized structure and its language and market orientation are more concerned with the expansion of the organization’s market share. This has however raised eyebrows among other divisions to the extent that they feel they are marginalized and sidelined in decision making.

Status inconsistencies: due to its centrality, the Polychemicals division considers itself as elite and that it can respond to end user when it so wishes.

Scarcity or resources: this is the ability to largely depend on resources and other operational capital from the centre. Expansion among the divisions might result to the scramble for the few resources.

Irreconcilable evaluations systems: the divisions are only rewarded depending on their return on investment; this might lead to a situation where polychemicals division might fail to supply the raw materials since it might lead to increase in costs. This system of evaluation has caused a lot of problems hence triggering transfer pricing problems.

Task independencies: this happens because all the resources flow via polychemicals and all other divisions which are end users are highly dependent on polychemicals division and in the event of polychemicals unwilling to respond to the demands of the end users, conflict becomes imminent.

In the case like the Texana Corporation, the leadership will be confronted with a hard task that might require them to change the organizational structure. Changing the organizational structure is necessary in order enhance power equilibrium which might result in reduction of the power wielded by polychemicals division in order to bring harmony between the divisions.

This can be achieved through the centralization of power which will ensure that polychemicals division losses power and that the end user divisions can request raw materials at the interest of the organization (Jones, 1994, p. 200).


From the above analysis, it is evident that motivation, leadership and the structure of an organization are all responsible for conflicts. Organizational structure in particular can change the perceptions of the people regarding the required resources. The overriding cause of conflict in organizations is job dissatisfaction and resources allocation.

Job dissatisfaction is responsible for conflicts at the individual level while resources allocation is considered the primary source of conflict that happen at the management and group level. Leaders need to learn and understand their all the employees under them.

There is a need to factor in all facts whenever there is an organization conflict. It is also in good faith that one takes care of the leadership theories that are applied to solve a conflict as some of the theories depending on the conflict at hand will likely lead to the escalation of the conflict.


Brooklyn, D 1975, Major Causes of Organizational conflict: Diagnosis for action, working paper, Eric Education, <>.

Craighead, W & Nemeroff, B 2002, The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science (3rd ed), John Wiley and Sons, New York.

Griffin, W & Moorhead, G 2011, Organizational Behavior, Cengage Learning, New York.

Jones, G 1994, . Scribd. Web.

Miner, J 2011, Organizational Behavior 6: Integrated Theory Development and the Role of the Unconscious, M.E. Sharpe, New York.

Ongori, H 2009, “Organizational conflict and its effects on organizational performance”, Research Journal of Business Management, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 16-24.

Osler, K 1993, “This feature: Diagnosing organizational conflict: Key questions to ask”, The Child Care Worker, Vol. 11, no. 9, pp. 15-27.

Poulin, J 2009, Strengths-Based Generalist Practice: A Collaborative Approach, Cengage Learning, New York.

Rahim, A 2001, Managing conflict in organizations (3rd ed), Greenwood Publishing Group, New York.

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