Conflict can be defined as the disagreement over team goals, motives and policies between team members. It can arise when there are opposing ideas, opinions expressed and behaviours among members of a team(group) or teams.
Conflict is “an overt behaviour that results when an individual or a group of individuals thinks that a perceived need of the individuals or group has been blocked or is about to be blocked.”(Rue and Byars, 2005).
Conflict may be caused by a number of factors, below is the most important ones explained:
- Scarce Resources: Conflict arises from allocation of limited organizational resources- money, material, human resource, equipment, funds, etc. When two teams or individuals need the same thing/equipment, the allocation to either of the party may generate conflict if each party feels that its needs are more important.
- Goal Incompatibility: When different employees pursue different goals within the same organization, conflict is bound to happen.
- Communication Failure: Ineffective communication often causes conflict among people and teams. And this happens when there is a breakdown in communication due to dislikes, distrusts and noise among members.
- Overlapping Jurisdiction: Conflict arises when there are no specific job boundaries and responsibilities which often create competition for resources and control.
- Unachieved Expectations: Employees get dissatisfied when expectations are not attained or achieved. Conflict is an aftermath or a by-product of unrealised expectations or goals.
- Personal Differences: Individual differences in experience, values, attitudes and personality can cause conflict in teamwork if individual members are not able to get along with one another.
- Job Interdependence: Conflict may occur when team members, teams or departments wait for the outcome of other members of another team (group) or department in order to perform their duties/responsibilities effectively. This occurs when a party fails to perform his/her task on time.
Generally, the term conflict connotes a negative occurrence or experience, generated by such things as disagreement, opposition, hostility, and anger. But in an organizational setting or teamwork, conflict doesn’t have to be an ugly or negative experience. Since a team involves a number of people working together, conflict is expected especially at the formation stage.
Conflict is made productive when team members are made to understand and believe that they have benefited rather than lost from a conflict if;
- A problem is solved, and it is not likely to emerge again, and
- Work relationships have been strengthened and people can work together productively in the future.