Some of the types of conflict are: 1. Community Conflict 2. Diplomatic Conflict 3. Economic Conflict 4. Emotional Conflict 5. Environmental Resources Conflict  6. External Conflict 7. Group Conflict

8. Ideological Conflict 9. International Conflict 10. Interpersonal Conflict 11. Inter-Societal Conflict 12. Intellectual Conflict 13. Intrastate Conflict

14. Intrapersonal Conflict 15. Organizational and Workplace Conflict 16. Intra-Societal Conflict 17. Military Conflict 18. Religious-Based Conflict 19. Data Conflict and a Few Others.

Types of Conflict: Community Conflict, Diplomatic Conflict, Economic Conflict, Emotional Conflict and a Few Others

Types of Conflict

Conflict may be vertical conflict (difference of opinion between different levels), horizontal conflict (difference of opinion among the equals, diagonal conflict; difference of opinion among the employees belonging to different departments) and multi-dimensional conflict.


A conceptual conflict can escalate into a verbal exchange and/or result in fighting.

Conflict can exist at a variety of levels of analysis:

i. Community conflict

ii. Diplomatic conflict


iii. Economic conflict

iv. Emotional conflict

v. Environmental resources conflict

vi. External conflict


vii. Group conflict

viii. Ideological conflict

ix. International conflict

x. Interpersonal conflict


xi. Inter-societal conflict

xii. Intellectual conflict

xiii. Intrastate conflict (for example- civil wars, election campaigns)

xiv. Intrapersonal conflict (though this usually just gets delegated out to psychology)


xv. Organizational conflict

xvi. Intra-societal conflict

xvii. Military conflict

xviii. Religious-based conflict (for example- Center for Reduction of Religious-Based Conflict)


xix. Workplace conflict

xx. Data conflict

xxi. Relationship conflict

xxii. Racial conflict.

Conflicts in these levels may appear “nested” in conflicts residing at larger levels of analysis. For example, conflict within a work team may play out the dynamics of a broader conflict in the organization as a whole. Theorists have claimed that parties can conceptualize responses to conflict according to a two-dimensional scheme; concern for one’s own outcomes and concern for the outcomes of the other party.

This scheme leads to the following hypotheses:

i. High concern for both one’s own and the other party’s outcomes leads to attempts to find mutually beneficial solutions.

ii. High concern for one’s own outcomes only leads to attempts to “win” the conflict.

iii. High concern for the other party’s outcomes only leads to allowing the other to “win” the conflict.

iv. No concern for either side’s outcomes leads to attempts to avoid the conflict.

Often a group finds itself in conflict over facts, goals, methods or values. It is critical that it properly identify the type of conflict it is experiencing if it hopes to manage the conflict through to resolution. For example, a group will often treat an assumption as a fact.

The more difficult type of conflict is when values are the root cause. It is more likely that a conflict over facts, or assumptions, will be resolved than one over values. It is extremely difficult to “prove” that a value is “right” or “correct”.

In some instances, a group will benefit from the use of a facilitator or process consultant to help identify the specific type of conflict. Practitioners of nonviolence have developed many practices to solve social and political conflicts without resorting to violence or coercion.

Types of Conflict  Interpersonal Conflict and Inter Group Conflict (With Reasons)

I. Interpersonal Conflict:

In an organizational setting, there may be several forms of interpersonal conflicts, such as, hierarchical conflict between various levels of management, functional conflict between occupational specialists, professional versus professional conflict, and so on.

These conflicts may be interpreted in two forms:

1. Vertical and

2. Horizontal.

1. Vertical Conflict:

Vertical conflict, also known as hierarchical conflict, arises between superior and subordinates. Individuals in superior-subordinate relationship have many organizational cross pressures operating on them.

The following examples indicate the sources of potential conflict:

“The boss wants more production; subordinates want more consideration. Customers want faster delivery; peers request schedule delay. Consultants suggest change; subordinates resist change. The rule book provides a formula; the staff says it will not work.”

Vertical conflict usually arises because superior attempts to control the behaviour of his subordinates, and subordinates resist such control as he feels that his superior tries to control activities outside the scope of his control and he perceives conflict with his superior and the latter may feel when his attempt of control is thwarted.

He is likely to interpret subordinate’s resistance as due to resentment of the exercise of personal power. This perception of the behaviour may be grounded either on realities or may be due to misunderstanding between superior and subordinates.

The non-resolution of this conflict may not necessarily terminate the relationship; however, this may become a serious problem to the efficiency of the organization.

2. Horizontal Conflict:

Horizontal conflict at interpersonal level is among the persons at the same hierarchical level in the same function or in different functions. Within each functional group, there may be many individuals and these individuals interact among themselves.

Such interactions may be contacts for the purpose of giving, taking, and soliciting advice, counsel, information, and skilled assistance on difficult problems. These interactions may be cooperative or conflicting depending on the nature of persons involved in interactions and situational variables.

Reasons for Interpersonal Conflict:

The major reasons for interpersonal conflict emerge out of two variables:

1. Personal and

2. Situational.

Nature of Persons:

The types of persons involved in the interaction process determine to a great extent the degree to which the interaction may be cooperative or conflicting.

The following factors are important in this context:

1. Ego States:

People interact with particular ego states. Ego states are the person’s way of thinking, feeling, and behaving at any particular time. If ego states are not complementary, the conflicting situations take place. Since, people are not aware about others adequately, often such situations arise. Lack of complementary ego states may ultimately lead to interpersonal conflict.

2. Value Systems:

People having different dominant value systems may develop conflict in their interaction. Value system is a framework of personal philosophy which governs and influences individual reactions to any situation. Thus, people having different value systems may interpret the things and situations differently which may reflect the choice of different methods of working and behaving. Such differences become the basis of interpersonal conflict.

3. Socio-Cultural Factors:

People coming from different social and cultural backgrounds may develop conflict among them. Many interpersonal conflicts based on caste, religion, region, and family background are based on socio-cultural differences. These differences may lead people to perceive the personal interests as conflicting.

Situational Variables:

Besides personal factors, there may be several situational factors which also generate interpersonal conflict. These factors may generate the conditions which result in conflict.

The following situational variables are likely to generate conflicting relationships:

1. Interest Conflict:

The most important situational variable likely to generate conflict is when people in a group see their interest differently. Because of difference in interest, each person tries to protect his interest at the cost of others’ interest resulting in conflict.

2. Role Ambiguity:

Role ambiguity may lead to generation of interpersonal conflict. Role ambiguity occurs when an individual is not clear about his responsibility and authority.

Because of role ambiguity, there may be conflict between two individuals over the issue of their jurisdiction.

II. Inter Group Conflict:

Group conflict may emerge between two groups or departments. These groups/departments are interdependent and affect each other. Therefore, conflict among these groups and departments may emerge. For example, conflict between production and marketing is a classic one because of their high interdependence.

Reasons for Intergroup Conflict:

There are several factors which may lead to intergroup conflict.

These factors are as follows:

1. Incompatible Goals:

The goals of two groups may have powerful impact on their relationship. Each group tries to accomplish its own goals. Intergroup conflict arises when goals of two or more groups are incompatible, that is, goal attainment by one group may prevent or reduce the level of goal attainment of one or more groups. Line and staff conflict or labour-management conflict arises because two groups have different sets of goals.

2. Resource Sharing:

The relationship between two groups can be affected by the degree to which the groups draw resources from a common pool, and the degree to which this common pool is not adequate to meet the demands of both the groups. Conflict arises because of discrepancy between aggregated demand and available resources as each group tries to secure as large degree of resources as possible.

3. Task Interdependence:

Task interdependence refers to the dependence of one unit on another for resources or information. Each group in the organization is related with others as these are created through organization structure. A dependent task relationship may result in one group having the ability to dictate or unilaterally determine the outcome of interaction between two groups.

For example, when departments are created on the basis of production process, the department involved in second process is highly depend on department involved in first process. Conflict between these two departments is likely to emerge because of lack of proper coordination.

4. Absorption of Uncertainty:

Organization and its various groups may experience uncertainties of various types because they interact with the environment which is dynamic. In order to absorb such uncertainties, certain groups are assigned activities to prescribe the way for dealing with uncertainty. Conflict arises when uncertainty absorption by one group is not in accordance with the expectations of other groups.

For example, accounting department may prescribe the rules for travelling expenses for marketing personnel so that they know how to spend on travelling. Condition for conflict exists when marketing department finds that travelling rules prescribed by accounting department are not proper.

5. Attitudinal Sets:

The sets of attitudes that members of various groups hold towards others can be a cause of conflict among groups. If the group relations begin with the attitudes of distrust, secrecy, and closed communication, there is a possibility that group relationships will become hostile rather than cooperative.

6. Joint Decision-Making Process:

Because of interdependence, groups involve in joint decision-making process. This process may not progress smoothly in the following circumstances- (i) if people have different sources of information; (ii) if there are leakages and blockages in the channels of information to different levels and departments; and (iii) if the techniques for processing of information by different groups are different. In such circumstances, misunderstanding is created among various groups which ultimately generate conflict.

Types of Conflict  Individual Level Conflict, Group Conflict, Intra-Organisational Conflict and Inter-Organisational Conflict

The following are the different types of conflict:

1. Individual Conflict-

i) Intra-individual conflict

ii) Inter-individual conflict

2. Group Conflict-

i) Inter-group conflict

3. Intra-Organisational Conflict-

i) Horizontal conflict

ii) Vertical hierarchical conflict

iii) Line and staff conflict

4. Inter-Organisational Conflict.

These different types of conflict are described in detail in the following paragraphs:

1. Individual Level Conflict:

i) Intra individual Conflict:

Intra personal conflict is internal to the person and is probably the most difficult type of conflict to analyses. To begin with, all of us have needs. These needs form the basis for our behaviour at work, at home, at play and in every activity we pursue. Everything we do is directed at satisfying some need. Humans are, to put it in simple terms, goal directed. Need satisfaction spurs people on; non-satisfaction of needs frustrates people and leads to behaviour that negatively affects job performance.

Organisations are basically formed for the purpose of meeting humanistic and economic needs of individuals. However, the nature of formal Organisation is such that it tends to create innumerable problems for individuals working therein. The goals of Organisational life are in direct conflict with the individual’s goals of workers causing them to be frustrated, alienated and threatened.

In the words of Davis Organisations are systems of medieval torture which suppress and subjugate- their victim-the individual. He lives in helpless conformity, stripped off his self-esteem in a phony and artificial environment. There is no challenge for psychological fulfillment. Most of the people working in Organisations are like inert instruments, mere appendages in the production process.

There is little chance to be creative. As Organisations grow, they tend to be less responsive to the needs of individuals. In addition to loss of freedom the individual is stripped off individual’s identity also. The incongruity model developed by Chris Argyrols postulates that there is a lack of congruity between the needs of healthy individuals and the demands of the Organisation.

The individual is caught in the web of his own making. He faces a conflict within himself. A smooth progression of the need-drive-goal motivational cycle does not occur. He is confronted with many puzzling questions- Whether to hang on to the present job in spite of its in-built disincentives?

Whether to tolerate the inhuman treatment meted out daily by the Boss? Whether to manipulate the figures to curry favour with the boss and prosper? To do or not to do? Basically intrapersonal conflict can be related to two things- conflict arising due to divergent goals, or conflict arising from out of multiple roles to be played daily.

I. Goal Conflict:

Goal conflict occurs when a goal that an individual is attempting to achieve has both positive and negative feature and when two or more competing goals exist.

Generally three spear types of goal conflicts are identified:

i) Approach-Approach Conflict:

A person wants two positive situations but can have only one. The person might be torn between lucrative jobs (mutually exclusive goals).

ii) Approach-Avoidance Conflict:

In this form of goal conflict the person attempts to achieve a goal that has both positive and negative aspects. A Delhi University teacher may be offered an excellent job in a bad location. In pursuing a challenging goal like obtaining First rank in the University, many students must make personal sacrifices (time, energy, away from entertainments etc.)

iii) Avoidance-Avoidance Conflict:

This type of conflict can be easily resolved because a person faced with two negative goals may not choose either of them and may simply leave the situation. This type of conflict may also exist when the person does not have the opportunity to leave. For example- a worker may dislike his present job, but the alternative of leaving and looking for another job may be even less attractive.

II. Role:

A role is a set of expectations people have about the behaviour of a person in a position. It is an expected mode of behaviour. An individual occupies many different positions in a variety of Organisation and performs multiple roles. Professors may be teachers, researchers, consultants, wives or husbands, community leaders in Organisations such roles are formally prescribed and others are created by the informal activities of the Organisation members.

When we examine the concept of role three types of roles clearly emerge- the expected role, the perceived role and the actual role. The expected role is what other people expect from an individual. For example a college teacher is expected by his role partners (Principal, Colleagues, and Students) to behave in a specific way.

The perceived role is how the individual thinks he or she should behave to fulfill the expected role. The enacted role is the way the person actually behaves in an Organisation. Thus in the complex theatre of modern life, most people play not to one audience but to several, and they play multiple roles simultaneously.

III. The Role Episode Concept:

The role episode concept provides a useful framework for understanding the impact of roles on individual behaviour. Role senders transmit expectations to the focal person who is a role taker. The sent role is received by the focal person, who behaves according to his own propensities as modified by the influence of the role senders.

The focal person’s actual behaviour (B) is a behavioural response to the received role (C). The sent role is related to but not identical with the expectations (G) of role senders (F). The received role is the focal person’s perception of the sent role (D) and includes his own perception of what the role should be.

IV. Role Ambiguity:

Role ambiguity occurs when an individual unclear regarding his job duties and responsibilities. As a result, the individual experiences difficulty in enacting the role. For example the college principal’s job maybe the centre of a web of conflicting interest groups, none of which can be fully, satisfied. He is, by definition, almost always wrong. If he spends much time in meeting the students, he is neglecting the faculty. If he spends much time with the faculty, he is being dictated by them.

If he is off campus, he should be back minding the store. If he changes his mind on an issue he is wishy-washy. If he does not, he is pig-headed. Ambiguity provides enough scope for variations in work or role performance by individuals, thereby increasing opportunities for conflict. When employees experience role ambiguity, job performance is adversely affected because literally they do not know what they are expected to do.

V. Role Conflict:

Role conflict is the result of divergent role expectations. It exists when the expectations of a job are mutually different or opposite and the individual cannot meet one expectation without rejecting the other. For example the supervisor, the man in the middle, is a bumping post, he has to take it from both ends. He has to perform strikingly different roles. He is both a boss and a subordinate.

As a part of the management team he should have the corresponding values and attitudes. As a member from the workers’ group he should have their values and attitudes. He is expected to wear both the hats gracefully. Role conflict arises because when roles are so conflicting supervisors do not know which set of expectations they should follow.

Again, managers occupying boundary positions, such as, marketing executives who have wide contacts with outsiders, work under role conflict. Some of their customers’ expectations on product quality, delivery time and credit term may be inconsistent with company policies. This type of conflict is known as intra-role conflict.

Several other forms of role conflict may be noted:

i) Person-Role Conflict:

This conflict arises when the expected behaviour is incompatible with a person’s own basic values and attitudes. For example- a politician asks one of his supporters to play dirty tricks on an opponent, and the supporter refuses on moral grounds.

ii) Inter-Role Conflict:

This type of conflict is the result of facing multiple roles. It occurs because individuals simultaneously perform many roles, and they conflict with each other. Many professors who try to evaluate the performance of students (judge role) may find it uncomfortable to fulfill the demands of other roles like the role of trainer, developer or teacher.

iii) Intra-Sender Role Conflict:

This occurs when an individual is expected to perform a task within specified limits but it is not possible to behave in a manner consistent with role assignment. For example if the librarian is asked to purchase rare, precious books from approved book sellers and the bocks are not found there but are found in roadside bookshops-intra sender conflict may develop.

iv) Inter-Sender Role Conflict:

If a building contractor asks a carpenter to do something that is different from the instructions of, the architect, the municipal building codes or his union’s work rules, that called inter-sender role conflict.

VI. Results of Role Conflict:

An individual confronted with role conflict will experience psychological stress leading to emotional problems. The likely end result will be a decline in performance. “Research shows that where there is wide variance in a manager’s role perception of his job and the employees’ role expectations of that job there tends to be poor motivation and inefficiency.”

Role conflict is inversely related to, job satisfaction and directly related to job tension and anxiety. Role conflicts can have a markedly adverse impact-on satisfaction and even on mental or physical health. Sometimes for the focal person, the emotional costs of role conflict include low job satisfaction, low confidence in the Organisation and high scores on the multi-item index of tension.

VII. Rote Conflict Resolution:

Organisations using participative management tend to minimize role conflict. Persuasion and group pressures can be exercised to bring subordinates’ goals closer to Organisational goals. Role conflict cannot be completely planned away.

The management’s approach towards resolving role conflicts should be to avoid situations where such conflicts arise. The important aspect will be matching situations and approaches. As pointed out by R.L. Kahn, a ceremony of confrontation and joint problem solving would seem to be a -useful mode of (role) conflict resolution.

ii) Interpersonal Conflict:

Interpersonal conflict involves two or more individuals rather than one individual. Two boys fighting for one cinema ticket, two men vying for one woman, two managers competing for the same promotion, two executives maneuvering for a larger share of corporate capital-examples of conflict between individuals are legion and quite familiar. Such conflict situations are made-up of at least two individuals who hold polarized points of view, who are somewhat intolerant of ambiguities, who ignore delicate shades of grey, and who are quick to jump to conclusions.


Interpersonal conflicts usually result in such cases where each person is jockeying to possess a scarce, resource which maybe a material thing or an immaterial state such as status, prestige, fame, power or money.

The most commonly cited reasons for interpersonal conflicts are:

a. Personality Differences:

Some people have difficulty in getting along with each other. This is purely a psychological -problem and it has nothing to do with their job requirement or formal interactions.

b. Perceptions:

Varied backgrounds, experiences, education and training result in individuals developing different perceptions of similar realities; the result being an increase in the likelihood of interpersonal conflict. The belief that somebody else is out to eat away our share of resources may create ill-feelings between us and that person. An individual who perceives conflict is likely (between managers and subordinates) to act in a manner conveying conflict intentions.

Vertical conflicts develop usually because superiors try to control subordinates and subordinates tend to resist. The subordinates may resist because they believe the control infringes on their personal autonomy, “makes his behaviour more predictable to others and thus weakens his power position in the Organisation”

c. Clashes of Values and Interests:

Conflict that so commonly develops between cindering and manufacturing per, one shows how differences in values might underlie conflict. Members of the engineering department might place a premium on quality, sophisticated design arid durability while members the manufacturing department might value simplicity and low manufacturing costs. The typical reactions may erupt in such forms. “It is too expensive to do it your way”. But we’ll lose our reputation for quality if we attempt it your way.

d. Power and Status Differences:

Interpersonal conflicts arise from unequal distribution of power and status. As pointed, out by Abraham Zalenznik, “Organisations are political structures”. They operate by distributing authority and setting a stage for the exercise of power. Similarly status inconsistencies lead to conflict. For example- conflict may result in when low status waitresses try to give orders to high status cooks.

e. Scarce Resources:

Interpersonal conflict is almost automatic anytime there is scarcity. Conflicts over scarce resources are exceedingly common in Organisations. Where the scarcity is absolute (the resource level cannot be enhanced) it is very difficult to manage interpersonal conflicts. For example if three qualified individuals vie for superior positions in the Organisation and there is only one such position, interpersonal conflict may develop to an unmanageable level.

2. Group Conflict:

i) Inter-Group Conflict:

Inter-group conflicts over authority, jurisdiction and resources are exceedingly common. Every group is in at least partial conflict with every other group it interacts with. Most of the departments in the Organisation compete for the allocation of scarce resources and power. They differ in goals, work activities, power and prestige.

The seeds of inter-group conflict are sown in these differences; research findings generally confirm the following sources of inter-group conflict:

I. Incompatible Goals:

Quite often the goals of one group are incompatible with those of other groups. Differences in group goals can easily lead to group conflict. Goal incompatibility implies that goal attainment by one or more other groups. The achievement of one department’s goal often interferes with another departments’ goal. Quite often this is due to high horizontal differentiation and task specialization.

The production department might perceive its goals as being potentially incompatible with those of marketing. Production department may pose such questions- “Why don’t we have accurate sales forecasts? Is it possible to keep everything in inventory?” And marketing people may pose a counter attract- Why don’t we have enough capacity? Why don’t we ever have the right merchandise in inventory? Such escalating differences are natural by-products of specialization.

II. Task Interdependence:

Task interdependence refers to the dependence of one unit on another for resources or information. The relationship between mutual task dependence and conflict is not direct. But in general, it can be said that as, interdependence increases, the potential for conflict increases. J. Thompson has identified three types of interdependence among groups: pooled, sequential and reciprocal.

Pooled interdependence occurs when departments have little interaction with each other but are affected by each other’s actions. For example- a branch in Delhi does not need to interact with a branch in Meerut. The only linkage between the two is that they share financial resources from a common pool and the success of each branch contributes to the success of the Organisation.

When interdependence is of serial form wherein the output of one becomes the input of another, then it is called sequential interdependence Plant A’s performance depends on plant B’s performance. This type of mutual dependence specified one way traffic for the flow of materials and calls for careful planning. In such situations where one unit is unable to commence its work until the other unit completed its job, conflict potential is greatest. Reciprocal interdependence occurs when two or more groups are mutually interdependent in accomplishing the tasks.

The output of departments influences one another in a reciprocal fashion. They mutually exchange information and resources. The relationship that exists between the nursing staff, surgeons, anesthesiology staff etc., is an example of reciprocal interdependence. Reciprocal interdependence forces employees to interact frequently. Employees are required to spend time coordinating and exchanging information and resources. Conflict is likely to crop up when agreement is not reached about the coordination of services to each other.

III. Resource Allocation:

Quite often resource allocation is of contention between Organisation members and groups. Resources symbolize power and influence and are the means of accomplishing goals. As such most of the departments in an Organisation jockey for resources and power bases. In their anxiety to achieve goals, groups try to cut a bigger slice out of the common pool. Generally the more fixed the resources in terms of size, and the more parties competing for them, the more intense tile conflict. Conflict may be minimized if the Organisation is prospering and new resources are glowing in allowing a greater share to each and every department.

IV. Competitive Incentive and Reward Systems:

Where jobs can be performed independently, competitive incentive plans based on individual excellence can be successfully implemented. However, when tasks are interdependent competition can hurt cooperation among members and performance may actually decline. When, all students in a group received the same grade regardless of individual contribution, coordination and communication was better and the quality of the group project was better.

But when students were graded according to their personal contributions to the group, they try to succeed at the expense of others and were more frequently in conflict. Similarly inter-group conflict is more likely to occur when the reward plan is tied to individual group performance rather than to overall Organisational performance. If departments are regarded only for departmental performance, managers are motivated to excel at the expense of others.

V. Line and Staff Conflicts:

Today line and staff differences are the most common type of inter-group conflict. This conflict is basically a clash of domains caused by dividing expertise, authority and roles.

Dalton’s studies of line and staff conflict highlighted the following sources:

i) Line managers dislike taking advice from younger staff specialists. They fear being ‘shown up’.

ii) Line managers label “staff” as agents on trial. The staff, in turn, views himself as an expert.

iii) Line managers feel that staff oversteps its authority.

iv) Line people resent staffs highly academic and untested ideas.

v) Staff people feel that line managers are bull-headed and do not clothe staff with enough authority and resist new, ideas.

VI. Differences in Values or Perceptions:

The differences in goals among the members of the various departments in the Organisation are frequently accompanied by differences in attitudes, values and perceptions that can also lead to conflict. Young bank clerks with post graduate qualification may resent being given routine work, white the older, higher level (less educated sometimes) may view such task as a necessary part of training.

Engineering people may value sophisticated designs while manufacturing people may prefer simple designs. Sometimes, status incongruence also promotes conflict. If members of a particular department perceive themselves as having higher status than the others for one reason or another conflict results in. For example conflict was found to result when low status industrial engineers directed the higher status engineers in the implementation of certain tasks.

VII. Other Reasons:

Additional sources of inter-group conflict may include:

i) Heterogeneity of members – Personality differences such as background, education, age etc., lower the probability of interpersonal rapport and decrease the amount of collaboration between departments.

ii) Communication distortions – Inadequate or unclear communications stimulate conflict because important information is held back and parties do not know each other’s jobs. This lack of knowledge can lead to unreasonable internist demands. Sometimes, surprisingly, interdepartmental conflicts cropped up where departments possessed a-great deal of knowledge about each other’s activities. Complete knowledge may reveal each party’s self-interest more clearly and may exhibit the inequalities more prominently.

iii) Participative decision-making – Joint decision-making promotes conflict. It offers enough scope for the expression of existing disputes and allows more occasions for differences to develop. Higher interaction acts to strengthen disagreements more than facilitate coordination and cooperation.

iv) Low formalization – Where formalization is low, the potential for jurisdictional disputes increase. Conflicts between departments are likely to flourish in situations where they are not subjected to rules and regulations.

3. Intra-Organisational Conflict:

The wellsprings of conflict in an Organisation are many.

But mainly three kinds of internal strains can be identified:

i) The horizontal strain, the competition between different functional subsystems,

ii) Vertical strain, the competition between various levels in the hierarchy far power, privilege or reward, and

iii) Line and staff conflict.

i) Horizontal Conflict:

Horizontal conflict refers to conflict between employees or departments at the same hierarchical level in an Organisation. The source of conflict between departments consists of pressures toward sub optimization. Each department may sub optimize by independently trying to achieve its own departmental goals.

For example- production departments may prefer long economical runs whereas sales departments may insist on quick delivery. Again, when two departments are functionally interdependent, breakdowns in the performance of one Department can lead to serious conflicts.

ii) Vertical Hierarchical Conflict:

Vertical conflict separates people in various levels of the occupational ladders in Organisations. It refers to any conflict between levels in an Organisation. It occurs usually in superior – subordinate relations. C. G. Smith identified three reasons for vertical conflicts which include- (i) inadequate communication between levels, (ii) conflict arises essentially from differences of interests between position holders occupying different status in the Organisational hierarchy, and (iii) a distinct lack of shared perceptions and attitudes among members in various levels.

Vertical conflicts arise because superiors attempt to control subordinates and subordinates tend to resist forcing the superior to increase the dosage of impersonal rules to exact obedience and gain control. Impersonal rules rob the subordinate of the freedom of action enjoyed hitherto and as a result, he perceives himself to be threatened by and in conflict with his superiors, who are attempting to decrease his autonomy.

iii) Line and Staff Conflict:

Controversy and conflict are inherent in the concept of line and staff, it is not an easy task to divide and distribute expertise, authority and roles in equitable quantities between the line generalists and staff specialists. The concept authorizes the splitting of various functions into two categories- hierarchical and non- hierarchical, that is, creation of low status and high status persons.

The splitting of functions into hierarchical and nonhierarchical levels and the creation of low status and high status positions creates a discrepancy between expected and actual authority leading to resentment and frustration to all the parties involved. Line managers look upon staff specialists as ‘unnecessary impediments in the otherwise simple and efficient administration of production operations.

Moreover, the staff specialist is cast in the role of a gatekeeper relative to the line manager and can often monitor information, resources and rewards flowing to him. To make confusion worse confounded, line and staff members have different time horizons, objectives and interpersonal orientations and approaches to Organisational problems.

For example Dalton found that staff employees were usually younger, had an upper level of education and came from different social backgrounds than line employees. These different personal characteristics which are frequently associated with different values and beliefs often exacerbate conflicts between line and staff. The causes of conflict between line and staff are captured.

4. Inter-Organisational Conflict:

The phenomena in inter-Organisational conflict are much the same as those arising within an Organisation. The bases of inter-Organisational conflicts are essentially the same as the bases of inter-group conflict. Most commonly cited reasons for inter-Organisational conflicts like incompatible objectives, conflicts over status; prestige and money are present in inter-Organisational conflict also.

As pointed out by March and Simong, “many of the phenomena of inter-group conflict within the Organisation are almost indistinguishable for the phenomena that we might consider under inter-Organisational conflict. The distinction between internal and external relations for an Organisation is a cloudy- one”. In other words, inter-Organisational conflict is more extensive, more diffuse than the conflict among persons or groups.


Conflict with outside organisations serves four purposes by:

i. Promoting closer bonds of unity among individuals within the Organisation. Organisations frequently organize themselves against something, and, in the absence of a perception of conflict, their reason for existence is weakened or disappears, and they suffer from internal disorganisation or even dissolution.

ii. Building new life into Organisational objectives and values. A conflict usually simplifies the purposes of an Organisation, simply because the objective of winning or surviving the conflict comes to dominate over all others. A situation of conflict heightens the larger purpose of the Organisation and so augments the internal rewards that come from a feeling of participation in these larger purposes.

iii. Making Organisational members aware of the strategy and tactics of the antagonist.

iv. Acts as an agency of social control.


For conflict to exist between two organisations, the following conditions must be satisfied:

i. Two Organisations that are ignorant of each other cannot be in conflict, though they might be in competition. So each of the Organisations must be, present in the image of the possible decision makers of the other.

ii. A decision on the part of either executive must affect the state of both Organisations in value-significant direction. Two Organisations that do not affect each other cannot be in competition and, therefore, cannot be in conflict.

iii. A decision on the part of either executive must affect the image of the state of the other in a direction that he considers as unfavorable. Wherever two Organisations are expanding into a common field, so that possession of part of the field by one excludes the other, conflict is possible.

Types of Inter-Organisational Conflicts:

Stanger and Rosen have identified five types of inter-organisational conflict:

1. Management-government – Conflicts over political contributions, bribery, anti-trust actions fair trade, consumer protection etc. (The government will generally monitor Organisational activities and management performance in areas where government regulation of business is thought necessary.)

2. Inter-management – Managements may compete- against each other in ways that they believe will enhance their position in the industry. Disputes over patents and fulfillment of contracts, price wars may be included here.

3. Intrusion – Unions may compete for members or jobs, as in jurisdictional disputes.

4. Union-government – The unions will be scrutinized by agents of government for illegal activities like criminal -activities discrimination, illegal strikes etc.

5. Union-management – If management and labor are to retain their institutional ideal ties, they must disagree and must adopt appropriate roles. Conflict is essential to survival for the union; lack of conflict would weaken it. Conflict between labour and management is expressed in many forms like strikes, peaceful bargains, grievances, debates, loyalties, sabotage and absenteeism.