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Causes of Organizational Conflict – 7 Major Causes Explained | Principles of Management

Causes of Organizational Conflict

Conflict in an organization is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values, and interests between people working together. It is very important for every individual to know what causes conflict or what constitutes the conflict.

Conflict takes many forms in organizations. Some conflicts have their basis in how people behave, while others come from disagreements about the nature of the team’s work and how it is being accomplished.


When we only focus on our needs and ignore other people’s or group’s needs conflict arises . Needs are the things that are very much essential to our well-being.

  • Conflicts can stem from employees’ basic needs not being met, such as the need for job security, recognition, or fair compensation.
  • Different individuals may have varying needs, and when these needs clash, it can lead to conflict.
  • For example, if one employee feels they deserve a promotion but doesn’t receive it, their unmet need for recognition and career advancement can lead to conflict.


People’s perception or opinions on anything differs from person to person as they all have their own method of thinking and judgment. Because of this contradictory nature of an individual’s perception conflict takes place.

  • Conflicts often arise due to differing perceptions of a situation or person’s actions.
  • People interpret situations differently, and these varying interpretations can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.
  • For instance, one team member might perceive a colleague’s comments as criticism, while the colleague intended them as constructive feedback.

Competing interests

Conflict can arise when people have mutually incompatible desires or needs. For example, two team members with similar skills may both want a certain assignment, leaving the one who doesn’t receive it resentful.

  • Conflict can arise when individuals or groups have competing interests or goals within an organization.
  • When resources are limited, departments or teams may compete for those resources, leading to conflicts over budgets, project priorities, or access to technology.
  • Conflicting interests can also arise in negotiations, where parties seek to maximize their gains at the expense of others.

Performance deficiencies

some team members are either not contributing their share of effort or not performing at the expected level of quality, the impositions that result can create friction, which may be heightened when critical or highly visible tasks are involved.

  • Inadequate performance or missed deadlines can trigger conflict within a team or between employees and their supervisors.
  • When individuals feel that someone else’s performance is affecting their own, they may express frustration or initiate conflict.
  • Conflicts in this context can be constructive if they lead to performance improvement discussions.


The number of Conflicts in an organization is influenced by how people use their power. This can happen only when someone is more powerful and his/her actions affect others.

  • Power struggles can be a significant source of conflict in organizations.
  • Conflicts often occur when there is an imbalance of power or when individuals or groups perceive a threat to their power.
  • This can manifest as disputes over decision-making authority, promotions, or control of resources.


Values are beliefs or principles we consider dear and very important. Conflicts also arise when one party refuses to accept the fact that the other party holds something as a value rather than a preference.

  • Differences in personal or organizational values can lead to conflicts.
  • When employees’ values, beliefs, or ethical standards clash, it can result in disagreements over what is right or wrong in the workplace.
  • For example, conflicts may arise when one employee believes that a project’s goals align with the company’s values, while another sees ethical issues with the project.

Feelings and emotions

When people ignore their own or other’s feelings and emotions conflicts can occur feelings and emotions. Many people allow their feelings and emotions to become a major influence over how they deal with conflict.

  • Emotions such as anger, frustration, jealousy, and fear can trigger conflicts.
  • Personal feelings and emotional reactions to situations can lead to impulsive or irrational behavior, which can exacerbate conflicts.
  • A simple disagreement can escalate into a conflict if individuals fail to manage their emotions effectively.

In summary, organizational conflicts often emerge from a combination of factors, including unmet needs, differing perceptions, competing interests, performance issues, power struggles, value disparities, and emotional reactions.

Recognizing these causes and addressing them through effective communication, conflict resolution strategies, and organizational policies can help mitigate and manage conflicts within the workplace.

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