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Sources of Organizational Conflict

Organizational Conflict

The sources of organizational conflict can be summarized into 4 major categories, namely:

1.People attributes e.g., personalities, values, attitudes & behavior

2.Organizational attributes e.g., structure, processes, system & culture

3.Job attributes e.g., task elements, needs and methods

4.Environmental attributes e.g., competition, economic, social, regulatory and political

People Attributes as Sources of Organizational Conflict

People attributes like personalities, values, attitudes and behavior can be sources of organizational conflict. Organizational members with different attributes may have difficulties in adjusting to each other. Differences in personal attributes may lead to misunderstandings and conflict.

The conflict may manifest in interpersonal relationships, communication, harassment, perceptions and assumptions. It may also manifest as different attitudes, values or perceptions, personality clashes, disagreements about needs, goals, priorities and interests, poor communication and harassment.

Assumptions about the others may reflect real or false differences. This occurs when assumptions are not checked and validated. Mistaken assumptions about others can create false differences between people. These assumed difference can be a source of conflict, for example perceived differences can be read as unfair advantage, inequitable distribution of resources and rewards etc. False assumptions can also come from non-disclosed values and different ways of life, ideology and or religion.

Lack of familiarity with others tends to drive stereotypes, assumptions and prejudices riding on human discomfort with difference. Failing to check assumptions about one another may feed into this leading to conflict and negative behavior. Add to these interpersonal dynamics, unresolved disagreements, unstated interests and past negative encounters, then you have a conflict ripe situation.

Organizational Attributes as Sources of Conflict

Organizational factors like internal and external organizational change, communication channels, performance, resource allocations and limitations, disagreements about needs, goals, priorities and interests, organizational structure, systems, also drive conflict in organizations.

Conflict from organizational factors manifests as teams or units competing for assumed or real limited resources, competing interests, perception of unequal control, ownership or distribution of resources, geographic, physical or environmental factors hindering co-operation, time constraints, financial constraints for example, spending limit on expense accounts.

Interests are another source of conflict which usually reflects as competing needs, desires or wishes; competing substantive interests, procedural interests and psychological interests. It is noteworthy to mention that competing interests maybe perceived or real.

Job Attributes

Job roles and responsibilities, and job characteristics are another sources of organizational conflict. Poor definition and descriptions, perceived unfairness of job role or task allocations, perceived fairness of job requirements, mismatch and misalignment of job and person are a rock-bed for conflict.

Environmental Factors

Factors in the economic, social, regulatory and political, and physical environmental spheres often trigger conflict in organizations. An economic recession, a change in industry or sector dynamics, a new set of regulations may trigger organizational conflict or worsen existing conflict.


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