This article focuses on conflict, a fact of life. We are surrounded by it. By understanding its causes and reasons, you can better mitigate its effects on you.
Definition of Conflict: Clash between two opposing emotional forces (there has to be a particular relationship between the two participants).
Types of Conflict:
- Conflicting Resources
- Conflicting Styles
- Conflicting Perspectives
- Conflicting Goals
- Conflicting Pressures
- Conflicting Roles
- Conflicting Personal Values
- Unpredictable Policies
Conflict arises from “position scarcity” and “resource scarcity”.
Position scarcity is “a condition in which an object cannot simultaneously serve two different functions, a role cannot be simultaneously occupied or performed by two or more actors, and different prescribed behaviours cannot be carried out simultaneously.”
Resource scarcity is a condition in which the supply of desired objects is limited so the participants cannot have all they want of anything. For example, conflict is inherent if reprints of a course’s required readings are limited. The many students sharing the reprints make access all but impossible, and failure to complete the assignment jeopardizes the grade earned on the next examination. Values influence the demand and need for scarce resources. Thus, if the above students were all highly motivated, the conflict would probably be greater than if the class comprised students with low motivation.
Conflict requires interaction among the participants in which actions and counteractions are mutually opposed.
Conflict cannot exist without action. Most commonly this activity is an action-reaction-action circular process.
Threats are actions even when they are not followed by intervention. For example, in a heated argument each participant not only introduces objections and complaints but also responds to the other’s stated position.
Conflict reactions always involve attempts to gain control of scarce resources and/or positions or to influence behaviour in certain directions; hence a conflict relationship always involves the attempt to acquire or exercise power or the actual acquisition or exercise of power. Power is the control over resources and decisions and is the basis of reciprocal influence between participants. The struggle for power focuses on achieving, changing, or, preserving existing power relationships.
Conflict relations constitute a fundamental social-interaction process having important cost consequences. Even if one wins, loses, or comes out even, conflicts entail costs in time and energy expended. Depending on resolving the conflict, the cost may be minimal or great.
Structural Levels of Conflict
Conflict can occur within the person. Ambivalence reflects these conflicts, as do symptoms of disordered perceiving, thinking, feeling, and behaving that are associated with psychiatric problems. When people claim to have problems with their conscience or say they feel guilty, they are referring to intrapsychic conflicts between their superego and id or ego.
People who interact with neighbors, friends, coworkers, and superiors in the workplace encounter various situations in which their beliefs, values, preferences, wishes, needs and perceptions do not agree with others. When this occurs, there is potential for conflict. Disagreement in these and many other areas of interaction provides a basis for conflict.
Intrafamily includes sibling rivalry, intergenerational conflict (the generation gap), and spousal conflict. Conflict is inherent to intrafamily relationships. The abrasive effect of close living, the interdependency for goal and need satisfaction, the exchange of goods and services, the differences between generations, and the competition for limited resources (money, goods, attention, love) contribute to developing conflict among family members.
Intragroup and Intracommunity
The work group is often beset with internal conflicts. Factions and blocs develop in work groups, particularly when team effort and decision making are required. Differing viewpoints, values, and expertise may become the bases of such conflicts.
Intercommunity and Intergroup
The term community has a wide variety of definitions; thus, conflict at this structural level may involve social groups and political or civic groups. A neighborhood, borough, county, province, nation and nonlocalized social group fall into this category. Collective bargaining and unionism are inherently in conflict. The union and the institution’s administration represent separate and distinct groups. The negotiations that occur between these two groups are a form of conflict resolution.
Intercultural conflict may develop between cultural groups linguistically, culturally, and territorially distinct from one another. Racial, ethnic, and class or caste prejudices reflect this conflict.
For further discussion of conflict and conflict resolution in the workplace, visit the Live For Excellence Book Store for the following publications:
Surviving and Thriving: How to Ensure Your First Year at Work Doesn’t End in Disaster
Bullyproof Your Workplace: Strategies to Prevent Workplace Bullying
PROtect Yourself Now!: Violence Prevention for Healthcare Workers
Assert Yourself! Harnessing the Power of Assertiveness in Your Career
Rae A. Stonehouse is an author, speaker, and self-publishing consultant dedicated to helping others embrace constant improvement and overcome challenges. With over 40 years of experience as a Registered Nurse in psychiatry and mental health, Rae brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for self-development to his writing and presentations.
As a 25+ year member of Toastmasters International, Rae has systematically built his communication abilities and self-confidence to share his insights as an author and speaker. His self-help books and personal development presentations aim to have conversational one-on-one connections with readers and audiences.
Rae is known for his wry sense of humor and sage advice delivered in a relatable coaching style. After four decades as a nurse, Rae has rewired rather than retired, actively writing and pursuing public speaking. He strives to share lessons learned to help others achieve personal and professional growth.