Conflict is an inescapable fact of life. Whether it’s friendships, family dynamics, or even workplaces, there will be conflict from time to time.

The trick is not avoiding it, but managing it better. If you can identify what the cause and type of the conflict is, it will be easier to solve it.

Conflict resolution is especially important in the workplace. Organizations ranging from multinational corporate entities to start-ups run out of a garage by college friends must make it a point to addressing conflicts in order to function smoothly.

Types of conflict

The types of conflicts in an organization may differ, but there are some broad categories we can put them into. After all, people worldwide function in somewhat similar ways in the workplace.

Identifying and addressing various types of conflict in the workplace will ensure an improvement in productivity levels. Resolving conflict leads to members of the team understanding each other better and working as a cohesive unit.

Let us look at the main types of conflicts in an organisation.

  1. Intrapersonal Conflict

Out of all the types of conflicts in an organization, this is the best one to start with. Humans are complex beings. Each of us carries unique potential, morals, ideas, beliefs. Intrapersonal conflict refers to the struggle that an individual faces while working in an organization. Intrapersonal conflict can arise when the ideas, mission, or vision of the organization are not aligned with the moral values and belief systems of an individual. The individual is rendered unable to work because they do not believe in the work they are doing. Intrapersonal conflict can be resolved by soul-searching and understanding what it is one truly wants.

  1. Interpersonal conflict

Every individual is unique. Even if you are working towards the same goal, there are chances that differences arise in approaches. These differences can be about philosophy, work ethic, rule adherence, vision, or management style. Out of all types of conflicts in an organization, interpersonal conflict is the one most of us would have most likely experienced. Sometimes taking an ugly form through office gossip or even categorized as ‘office politics,’ interpersonal conflicts is almost inevitable when people with different perspectives and from different walks of life spend a significant amount of their time together. Interpersonal conflicts adversely affect productivity and morale. They can easily escalate if not attended to in a timely manner.

  1. Intra-team conflict

Organizational goals are often ambitious—they require the coming together of people with varying levels of experience and expertise. Therefore, it is common for the workforce to be divided into teams for smooth functioning. Like some other types of conflicts in an organization, intra-team conflict is a result of diverse personalities working together in the same team. It is possible that a few people from the team or the group hold a few values and beliefs in common, but as the size of the team increases, the chances are that conflict does too. Intra-team conflict can be managed by a clear division of responsibilities, a fair division of work, and a management policy under which no team member is given any kind of ‘special’ treatment.

  1. Inter-team conflict

One of the biggest types of conflict in the workplace, in scale, would be inter-team conflict. For any organization to function effectively, there has to be equilibrium among all the cogs of the wheel. With multitudes of individuals, groups, teams, boards, and other stakeholders working together, it is the responsibility of the organizational leaders to resolve inter-team conflicts. Supervisors need to ensure that communication channels are open and any tension or lack of cooperation between teams is nipped in the bud. To do this, they need to eradicate bias, allocate workload effectively, and build morale. A leader has to take personality differences, co-worker relationships, and collective strength into account. Verbal discussions and positive reinforcements go a long way in resolving inter-team conflicts.

Harappa Education’s Navigating Workplaces course helps you learn about the different types of conflict and the tried and trusted models for conflict resolution. The Thomas-Kilmann model for effective conflict resolution and the functional and dysfunctional conflict concept are two such tools that will help you manage and resolve conflicts in the workplace. If you want to ensure that conflicts are not simply ignored or deflected but solved in the best interests of the organizational goal, enrol for the course today!


Explore topics such as Managing Conflict, Characteristics of Team Members, Thomas Kilmann Model, Functional and Dysfunctional Conflict & How to Manage Crisis in our Harappa Diaries section in order to build trust-rich relationships at work.

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