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Managing Conflict in Teams and Organizations

Any organization is based on a team of workers, without which the functioning of an entire enterprise is impossible. The variety of characters, interests, and needs makes the collective the most complex and unpredictable system, in which there is a constant struggle of opposites. Thus, the development of an organization is impossible without institutional conflicts. From the functional perspective, a contradiction can be seen as productive because it causes the institution members to learn, improve, and develop creativity and problem-solving skills. On the other hand, conflict can be seen as dysfunctional because it threatens an institution’s structure and stability and stifles creativity and change. Therefore, institutional discrepancy conflict is an inevitable phenomenon in the organization but if managed properly, it can cause people and the foundation to develop and improve.

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The range of all possible causes of conflict in the enterprise is vast. Rahim (2017) identifies such reasons for a conflict as administrative, organizational, and subjective or personal. Administrative reasons are associated with an ill-conceived organizational structure of the enterprise. In this case, a dispute arises when a worker is presented with requirements that do not correspond to their job description or when employees’ rights and obligations are not assigned. Organizational reasons are manifested when labor discipline or work schedule is violated by both the employee and the employer, and the orders of the superiors are not followed.

Subjective reasons are directly related to the personal qualities of both the leader and their subordinates. It is detected in a disrespectful attitude towards employees, an inability to accept criticism, the imposition of one’s opinion, and intolerance towards others. Therefore, institutional conflicts can have a wide variety of causes and are often associated with individual differences in people and their diverse views.

There are many types of institutional contradiction, one of which is considered a functional conflict. According to Worren (2018), this type of collision is based on objective discrepancies, the resolution of which there are new ideas and progressive changes occurring in the organization. When arising and resolving a functional conflict, employees have the opportunity to express their opinions freely. Worren (2018) notes that such clash, which is a form of collision resolution, has significant merit. It relieves social tension, eliminates stress situations, generates new norms of communication between employees, and promotes adequate self-esteem and self-knowledge of the worker. Thus, despite their essential contradictory characteristics, functional conflicts contribute to the stabilization of the situation in the organization.

The opposite signs have dysfunctional conflicts that threaten interpersonal relationships within an organization. According to Maltarich et al. (2018), such conflicts negatively affect the team’s psychological climate and corporate culture and interfere with work even for those who do not participate in the clash. The consequence of a dysfunctional conflict can be a decline in the entire organization’s system, a decrease in the efficiency of work capacity and discipline.

According to sociological studies, dysfunctional conflicts and post-conflict experiences lead to a loss of about 15% of working time and a decrease in motivation by 30%, and labor productivity by 20% (Maltarich et al., 2018). Such quarrels have a destructive effect on the team, leading to collisions, gossip, and frustration. Consequently, dysfunctional conflicts are an unfavorable type of interaction within an organization and are characterized by constant rivalry and ineffective communication, with resentment and dissatisfaction with the work.

Experts have developed many recommendations concerning various aspects of human behavior in conflict situations and means of its resolution and management. Worren (2018) claims when solving a functional conflict, methods such as adaptation and concessions, smoothing and orientation towards a common collective goal, and negotiations to make a common compromise are used. In this case, the functional conflict solution allows to stabilize the situation in the team and even reach a higher, more perfect level of functioning of the organization.

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This type of conflict initiates change, renewal, and progress, encourages participants to interact and develop more effective solutions that eliminate the problem. Thus, solving a functional conflict is characterized by searching for new non-standard solutions and reaching a new level of interaction within the organization.

In the absence of an effective way to manage dysfunctional conflict, productivity decreases, and the organization’s socio-psychological climate worsens. Maltarich et al. (2018) propose a particular method for resolving such a conflict, consisting of several stages. First, the manager should identify the problem of dysfunctional conflict, then determine its solution that is acceptable to both parties, and focus on the issue, not on the qualities of the other participant.

Moreover, when resolving this type of conflict, it is incredibly essential to create an atmosphere of trust, increasing mutual attention and exchanging information. It is also vital to develop a positive attitude towards each other, showing sympathy and listening to the other side’s views, and minimize the manifestation of anger and threats. In solving a dysfunctional conflict, the manager’s skills play a significant role in directing the conflict in a positive direction and drawing from it experience useful for the organization’s future activities.

Thus, both negative and positive consequences of conflicts cannot be absolutized and considered outside a specific situation. The actual ratio of functional and dysfunctional effects of a conflict directly depends on their nature, the causes that give rise to them, and the skillful management of disputes. By successfully managing conflict, both functional and dysfunctional, the problem can transform and have a constructive impact on the organization. It is important to remember and take into account that a positive workplace environment is a key to high-quality and productive work.


Maltarich, M., Kukenberger, M., Reilly, G., & Mathieu, J. (2018). Conflict in teams: Modeling early and late conflict states and the interactive effects of conflict processes. Group & Organization Management, 43(1), 6−37.

Rahim, M. (2017) Managing conflict in organizations. Routledge.

Worren, N. (2018). Operationalizing the concept of conflicting functional demands. European Management Review, 16(1), 117−133.

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