Group Conflict

  • Post last modified:26 October 2021
  • Reading time:12 mins read

What is Group Conflict?

Conflict can be described as a disagreement amongst groups or individuals. This is usually motivated by the opposition of another group, in an attempt to reach an objective different from that of the group. The elements involved in the conflict have varied sets of principles and values, thus allowing such a conflict to arise.

Taking a look into what causes conflict can help us understand this phenomenon even more. Hence, let us take into consideration the common sources of conflict. In this manner, we can address other aspects of the question (“what is conflict?”) posed.


Sources of Conflict

What are the factors that make conflict arise? For the purpose of this discussion, let us put into attention the three main sources of conflict as proposed by American psychologist Daniel Katz. According to him, conflict arises primarily due to these three reasons:

  • Economic conflict is brought about by a limited amount of resources. The groups or individuals involved then comes into conflict to attain the most of these resources, thus bringing forth hostile behaviours amongst those involved.

  • Value conflict is concerned with the varied preferences and ideologies that people have as their principles. Conflicts driven by this factor are demonstrated in serious conflicts wherein separate parties have sets of beliefs that they assert in an aggressive manner.

  • Power conflict occurs when the groups involved intends to maximisetheir influence in the social setting or in an organisation. Such a situation can happen amongst individuals, groups or even nations. Power is also evident as it involves an asserting of influence to another.

Conflict comes naturally; the clashing of thoughts and ideas is a part of the human experience. It is true that it can be destructive if left uncontrolled. However, it shouldn’t be seen as something that can only cause negative things to transpire.

It is a way to come up with more meaningful realisations that can certainly be helpful to the individuals involved. These positive outcomes can be reached through effective implementation of conflict resolution.

Conflict can be seen as an opportunity for learning and understanding our differences. We can all live harmoniously despite conflicts as long as we know how to responsibly manage these struggles.


Types of Conflicts

Conflict pertains to the opposing ideas and actions of different entities, thus resulting in an antagonistic state. Conflict is an inevitable part of life. Each of us possesses our own opinions, ideas and sets of beliefs. We have our own ways of looking at things and we act according to what we think is proper.

Hence, we often find ourselves in a conflict in different scenarios; may it involve other individuals, groups of people, or a struggle within our own selves. Consequently, conflict influences our actions and decisions in one way or another.

Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict refers to a conflict between two individuals. This occurs typically due to how people are different from one another. We have varied personalities which usually results to incompatible choices and opinions.

Apparently, it is a natural occurrence which can eventually help in personal growth or developing your relationships with others. In addition, coming up with adjustments is necessary for managing this type of conflict.

However, when interpersonal conflict gets too destructive, calling in a mediator would help so as to have it resolved.

Intra-personal Conflict

Intra-personal conflict occurs within an individual. The experience takes place in the person’s mind. Hence, it is a type of conflict that is psychological Inter-Group Conflicts and their Resolution involving the individual’s thoughts, values, principles and emotions.

Interpersonal conflict may come in different scales, from the simpler mundane ones like deciding whether or not to go for non-veg lunch to ones that can affect major decisions such as choosing a career path.

Furthermore, this type of conflict can be quite difficult to handle if you find it hard to decipher your inner struggles. It leads to restlessness and uneasiness, or can even cause depression. In such occasions, it would be best to seek a way to let go of the anxiety through communicating with other people.

Eventually, when you find yourself out of the situation, you can become more empowered as a person. Thus, the experience evoked a positive change which will help you in your own personal growth.

Intra-group Conflict

Intra-group conflict is a type of conflict that happens among individuals within a team. The incompatibilities and misunderstandings among these individuals lead to an intra-group conflict.

It arises from interpersonal disagreements (e.g. team members have different personalities which may lead to tension) or differences in views and ideas (e.g. in a presentation, members of the team might find the notions presented by the one presiding to be erroneous due to their differences in opinion).

Within a team, conflict can be helpful in coming up with decisions that will eventually allow them to reach their objectives as a team. However, if the degree of conflict disrupts harmony among the members, then some serious guidance from a different party will be needed for it to be settled.

Intergroup Conflict

Intergroup conflict takes place when a misunderstanding arises among different teams within an organisation. For instance, the sales department of an organisation can come in conflict with the customer support department.

This is due to the varied sets of goals and interests of these different groups. In addition, competition also contributes for intergroup conflict to arise. There are other factors which fuel this type of conflict. Some of these factors may include a rivalry in resources or the boundaries set by a group to others which establishes their own identity as a team.

Conflict may seem to be a problem to some, but this isn’t how conflict should be perceived. On the other hand, it is an opportunity for growth and can be an effective means of opening up among groups or individuals. However, when conflict begins to draws back productivity and gives way to more conflicts, then conflict management would be needed to come up with a resolution.


Intergroup Conflicts

Fisher offers a social-psychological approach to understanding intergroup conflicts, that is, conflicts between people that occur in terms of their group identities. He considers the implications of this approach both for conflict resolution and for the training in conflict resolution.

Fisher argues that intergroup conflicts arise from objective differences of interest, coupled with antagonistic or controlling attitudes or behaviours. Incompatibilities, which can prompt conflict, include economic, power or value differences, or differences in needs-satisfaction. Often intergroup conflicts have a mixture of these elements.

These incompatibilities can then be exacerbated into destructive intergroup conflict by common perceptual and cognitive processes. The very act of group categorisationtendstocreatesomein-groupfavouritism.

Conflict betweengroups encourages negative stereotyping of the opposing group. Cognitive biases lead individuals to attribute positive personal characteristics to fellow in-group members and excuse their negative behaviours. At the same time, such biases lead people to attribute negative characteristics to out-group members and explain away any positive behaviours.

Group-level processes also play a role in intergroup conflicts.Groups have identities, and a group’s sense of its particular identity will influence how it interacts with other groups.Groups display cohesiveness; members tend to be attracted to and want to remainin the group.

Cohesiveness can lead to strong pressures to conform to group norms, especially in conflict situations. Cohesiveness can also lead to groupthink, which is characterised by consensus seeking to the point of irrationality.

All of these processes tend to escalate conflicts. Conflict, in turn, tends to intensify these processes.Through a combination of cognitive rigidity and bias, self-fulfilling prophecy, and unwitting commitment to prior beliefs and action, parties are drawn into an escalating spiral wherein past investment justifies increasing risk, and unacceptable losses foreclose a way out.

Escalation itself produces psychological and structural changes that make the parties resist deescalation. Psychological changes include negative biases and a dehumanised view of the out-group. Structural changes include incorporating hostile, destructive attitude toward the out-group into the in-group norms. Groups that benefit from conflict develop vested interests in continuing the conflict. Polarisation processes draw formerly uninvolved parties into the conflict.

Although different groups might work well together, conflict arises when one group goals differ from another, such as when one team goal to implement new software conflicts with another group need to complete a project using the existing software application. As the new software would slow the project progress this group would not immediately benefit from the new application.


Intra Group conflict

Disagreements and misconceptions might occur within the team members, which creates conflict. However, some conflict is helpful for a business. For example, honest disagreement between team members normally provides the mechanism that helps decision-makers select the best solution to a problem. But misconceptions might generate negative feelings between team members that degrades productivity.


Difference Between Inter- & Intra-Group Conflict

Intra-group conflict relates to disagreements or misconceptions between individuals within a work group, such as a project team. Inter-group conflict applies to disagreements or misconceptions between work groups, such as between two project teams.

The intra-group conflicts are primarily an outcome of interpersonal relationships within the group while Intergroup Conflicts are more associated with the functions, Resource allocations, powers of the groups etc. Thus intergroup conflict have many factors which are external to the boundaries of the groups.


Consequences of Conflict

There are two major consequences of Conflicts in an organisations:

Effect on Communication

Intergroup conflict causes changes to occur, both within the groups in conflict and between them. Within the groups, members will usually overlook individual differences in an effort to unite against the other side, and with this concerted effort the focus is on the task.

The group can become more efficient and effective at what they do, and members can become more loyal, closely following group norms. Problems can occur, however, when the group loses focus of the organisation’s goals and becomes closed off from other groups. Haughtiness and isolation quickly lead to decreased communication.

Communication is the key between groups in reciprocal interdependence, and these have the highest negative consequences for lack of effective communication. Miscommunication can be the death knell of any organisation.

Emotional Effect

Conflict generates various employee emotions, such as resentment, fear and mistrust. This applies to intra-group and inter-group environments. For example, a team member might perceive that another team member has a light workload, escalating the situation from frustration to aggression. If this goes unchecked, employee safety might become an issue.


Conflict Management Styles

Considering the fact that we as individuals have different points of view, there will always be instances when misunderstandings will occur among us. With the arising of these intractable conflicts comes the need for conflict management.

Even in seemingly ordinary situations, conflict may be rooted by other non-apparent reasons. Understanding the other sides of the issue would allow those involved to come up with an ideal resolution to the problem. In dealing with conflict, there are conflict management styles to be followed.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, which is an assessment used globally in conflict handling, specifies five strategies used to address conflict. They are as follows:

Accommodating

Accommodation involves having to deal with the problem with an element of self-sacrifice; an individual sets aside his own concerns to maintain peace in the situation. Thus, the person yields to what the other wants, displaying a form of selflessness.

It might come as an immediate solution to the issue; however it also brings about a false manner of dealing with the problem. This can be disruptive if there is a need to come up with a more sound and creative way out of the problem. This behaviour will be most efficient if the individual is in the wrong as it can come as a form of conciliation.

Avoiding

In this approach, there is withdrawal from the conflict. The problem is being dealt with through a passive attitude. Avoiding is mostly used when the perceived negative end outweighs the positive outcome. In employing this, individuals end up ignoring the problem, thinking that the conflict will resolve itself.

It might be applicable in certain situations but not in all. Avoidance would mean that you neglect the responsibility that comes with it. The other individuals involved might think that you are neglecting the problem. Thus, it is better to confront the problem before it gets worse.

Collaborating

Collaborating aims to find a solution to the conflict through cooperating with other parties involved. Hence, communication is an important part of this strategy. In this mechanism, effort is exerted in digging into the issue to identify the needs of the individuals concerned without removing their respective interests from the picture.

Collaborating individuals aim to come up with a successful resolution creatively, without compromising their own satisfactions.

Competing

Competition involves authoritative and assertive behaviours. In this style, the aggressive individual aims to instil pressure on the other parties to achieve a goal. It includes the use of whatever means to attain what the individual thinks is right.

It may be appropriate in some situations but it shouldn’t come to a point wherein the aggressor becomes too unreasonable. Dealing with the conflict with an open mind is vital for a resolution to be met.

Compromising

Compromising is about coming up with a resolution that would be acceptable to the parties involved. Thus, one party is willing to sacrifice their own sets of goals as long as the others will do the same. Hence, it can be viewed as a mutual give-and-take scenario where the parties submit the same amount of investment for the problem to be solved.

A disadvantage of this strategy is the fact that since these parties find an easy way around the problem, the possibility of coming up with more creative ways for a solution would be neglected.

Given the different conflict management styles, you might be thinking of the one style that would suit you the most. It is important to note that the strategy involved in coming up with a resolution is relative to the kind of the problem.

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