Conflict is defined as “the perceived and/or actual incompatibility of values, expectations, processes, or outcomes between two or more parties over substantive and/or relationship issues” (Cain, p.26, 2013). The authors of this paper will point/counter-point to see if conflict is good for an organization, or if all conflicts are dysfunctional. After the point/counter-point the authors will explain if as a group they were able to come to consensus on the issue and which side of the argument is most strongly supported by academic literature.
Types of Conflict
Conflict can have varying effects on the performance of a team. Once a team is faced with any type of conflict, it is important for the team to work toward a resolution to aid in the team’s overall success. As done so by Behfar and Peterson (2008), it is easiest to group the sources of conflict into 3 main categories to develop a better understanding of what a team may be faced with.
Task or Cognitive Conflict
Task or cognitive conflict is disagreement over differences in ideas, viewpoints, and opinions pertaining to the group’s task (Behfar, Peterson, 2008). For example, disagreement regarding an organization’s current hiring strategies or the appropriate information to include in an annual report (Greer, Jehn, Levine, Szulanski, 2008).
Relationship conflict is disagreement resulting from interpersonal incompatibilities, which includes affective components such as feeling tension and friction (Behfar, Peterson, 2008). Relationship conflicts frequently reported are about social events, gossip, clothing preferences, political views and hobbies (Greer, Jehn, Levine, Szulanski, 2008). “Task conflict is widely believed to be beneficial whereas relationship conflict is destructive” (Jiang, Zhang, and Tjosvold, 2013).
Process conflict is conflict about dividing and delegating responsibility and deciding how to get work done. An example of this is an argument about who is responsible for writing up the final report and who will make the presentation (Greer, Jehn, Levine, Szulanski, 2008).
CONFLICT IS GOOD FOR AN ORGANIZATION
It is normal to experience conflict when working in team environments. The key to having an effective team is getting its members to work together to overcome conflict. Psychological safety facilitates the performance benefits of task conflict in teams, and psychological safety refers to team members being confident that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up (Bradley, Postlethwaite, Klotz, Hamdani, and Brown, 2012).
Causes of Team Conflict in Organizations
“Too little conflict results in organizational stasis, while too much conflict reduces the organization’s effectiveness and eventually immobilizes its employees (Marquis & Huston 1996)” (Lather, Jain, Jain, and Vikas, 2009)
According to Higgins (2003) there are three types of conflict that occur in business teams, there’s process-related conflict, conflict in identifying the task and goals for the team, and personality conflict.
Caudron (1998) identifies three sources of conflict in the modern workforce. First is employees are being forced to “do more with less” and this causes stress which leads to conflict. Second is employees are now making tough decisions due to downsizing and this added responsibility causes conflict. Lastly team-based work is increasing and this naturally leads to conflict.
Outcomes of a Team Conflict
“When basic conflicts are not resolved it is difficult, if not impossible, to develop trust and good interpersonal relationships at work” (Lather, Jain, Jain, & Vikas, 2009).
“Adler and Towne (1990) identified three possible courses of actions when faced with a conflict: (a) accepting the status quo (i.e. living with the problem); (b) using force and mandating change; (c) reaching an agreement by negotiating. Three types of outcomes result from these approaches to conflict management: Win–Lose