When Mayank got a job he had coveted for a long time, he was on top of the world. He had the right skills for the job and was appreciated at the new workplace.

However, eventually, he realized that he had major political differences with some of his colleagues. Normal office chatter would easily deteriorate into heated arguments.

This eventually led to conflicts and started affecting the overall productivity of the team. Mayank, too, was disheartened that things didn’t turn out the way he had expected them to.

While some conflicts like functional conflicts are essential for progress, dysfunctional conflicts usually tend to hinder the process of communication and affect the morale of the workforce and create unnecessary animosity.

Differentiating between functional vs. dysfunctional conflict and dealing with them effectively is essential to maintain a smooth and steady workflow. While a leader is responsible for conflict resolution, every employee should be prepared to understand the reason for conflict and work towards de-escalating it.

The differences between functional and dysfunctional conflict

Both functional and dysfunctional conflict can occur in any workplace. Dealing with it in a healthy, empathetic, and timely manner is imperative to maintain and improve the productivity and the efficiency of any organization. For better conflict resolution, it is necessary to understand the types of conflict.

Functional conflict is termed so because it is in line with the policies and goals of the organization. It increases productivity and motivates employees to find a creative solution for the problems at hand.

On the other hand, dysfunctional conflict can arise from personal differences and non-work-related issues such as different belief systems. While the issues are not related to the work at hand, these conflicts can interfere with peoples’ ability to focus on their tasks.

How to deal with functional and dysfunctional conflict?

The first step would be identifying the difference between functional vs. dysfunctional conflict. Suppose there’s a meeting and personal issues between some people due to their behavior traits disrupt it. It is important to understand that these issues may have started off earlier in an unprofessional capacity.

Ego games and office politics, where some employees look for personal gains rather than professional or organizational gains, should be identified and discouraged.

This is because functional and dysfunctional conflict can seem interwoven if left unnoticed for a long time. Strategic one-on-one meetings and periodic employee reviews can help the leader gain insight into the situation.

Differences in opinions should be encouraged if they are about work. A leader must be open-minded and entertain every idea and suggestion and comment on the work’s quality and structure.

Functional conflict should be structured, where everyone gets an equal opportunity to voice their opinions. If someone feels she is treated unfairly, it is necessary to recognize the problem and enquire about her opinion on the matter at hand. Brilliant ideas and new perspectives can emerge from debates and discussions.

Every employee should be encouraged to provide their opinion on any issue and nobody should receive any special treatment.

A transparent and democratic process can bring about positive changes and can boost progress.

If every worker feels that he or she has a voice in the decision-making process, productivity will increase and everyone will be motivated to work harder and faster.

Dysfunctional conflict should be discouraged. Any personal remarks or comments that could affect any particular individual or a group negatively should be addressed immediately. If the conflict is arising from the increased stress or workload levels, put in a system in place to resolve such situations.

Workers who have access to anti-burnout mechanisms tend to be more productive. Therefore, time and workload management skills should be imparted.


Setting up equal and fair vertical or horizontal growth opportunities helps boost morale and avoid any unnecessary conflicts. Recognizing employees with excellent work ethics sets an example for all the employees. Further, transparency in promotions or demotions will ensure that no one is treated unfairly.

Harappa Education’s Navigating Workplaces course can help you learn and identify the difference between functional and dysfunctional conflict for efficient and effective conflict management. It can teach you techniques that can help resolve such matters quickly. With the help of world-class professional faculty, you can master the skills such as the Thomas Kilmann framework to deal with functional and dysfunctional conflict and ensure peace, productivity, and healthy relationships at the workplace.

Explore topics such as Conflict Management TechniquesCharacteristics of an Effective TeamThomas Kilmann ModelTypes of Conflicts in an Organization & How to Manage Crisis in our Harappa Diaries section in order to build trust-rich relationships at work.

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