What Is Organizational Conflict?

Organizational conflict generally gets a bad rap for causing discord and distrust among employees, hindering productivity. It's not always negative, however. Conflict can open up the door for collaborative problem solving and growth, if used appropriately.

  1. Definition

    • According to James A. Cram and Richard K. MacWilliams in "The Cost of Conflict in the Workplace," organizational conflict is a difference of opinion among the internal members of an organization, such as management, employees, principals or board members.


    • Organizational conflict can prevent a project from moving forward if two parties cannot agree how to proceed. If conflict is identified and discussed calmly and openly, it can result in the development of better strategies and solutions to common problems.


    • Organizational conflict that is not being handled appropriately can be identified by a number of signs, including loss of productivity, obvious discord among frustrated employees or projects that come to a standstill because decisions aren't being made. Positive conflict tends to have the opposite effect with positive outcomes.


    • Differing opinions about job responsibilities frequently cause organizational conflicts. Other causes include organizational change or miscommunication. For example, if a company changes policies and procedures, employees may be frustrated if they don't fully understand their new responsibilities.


    • The best way to deal with organizational conflict is to turn it into a positive brainstorming session between parties. Differences of opinion and new ideas can create innovative solutions and new concepts that can actually benefit an organization.

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