A conflict is a struggle and a clash of interest, opinion, or even principles. Conflict will always be found in society; as the basis of conflict may vary to be personal, racial, class, caste, political and international. Conflict may also be emotional, intellectual, and theoretical, in which case academic recognition may, or may not be, a significant motive. Intellectual conflict is a subclass of cultural conflict, a conflict that tends to grow over time due to different cultural values and beliefs.
Conflict in a group often follows a specific course. Routine group interaction is first disrupted by an initial conflict within the group, often caused by internal differences of opinion, disagreements between its members, or scarcity of resources available to the group. At this point, the group is no longer united, and may split into coalitions. This period of conflict escalation in some cases gives way to a conflict resolution stage, after which the group can eventually return to routine group interaction or split.
In cases of intragroup conflict, there is a conflict between the overall goals of the general group, and the goals of at least one person in that group. The disagreements may also be examples of interpersonal conflict, a conflict between two or more people. More specific types of conflict include the following.
- Content conflict occurs when individuals disagree about how to deal with a certain issue. This can be a good thing as it has the potential to stimulate discussion and increase motivation.
- Relationship conflict occurs when individuals disagree about one another. This relational conflicts decreases performance, loyalty, satisfaction and commitment, and causes individuals to be irritable, negative and suspicious. This stems from interpersonal incompatibilities. It is an awareness of frictions caused by frustrations, annoyance, and irritations. Relationship conflict is comparable to affective and cognitive conflict as defined by Amason and Pinkley, respectively.
- Process conflict refers to disagreement over the group’s approach to the task, its methods, and its group process. They note that although relationship conflict and process conflict are harmful, task conflict is found to be beneficial since it encourages diversity of opinions, although care should be taken so it does not develop into a process or relationship conflict.
- Task conflict is related to disagreements in viewpoints and opinion about a particular task in group settings. It is associated with two interrelated and beneficial effects. The first is group decision quality. Task conflict encourages greater cognitive understanding of the issue being discussed. This leads to better decision making for the groups that use task conflict. The second is affective acceptance of group decisions. Task conflict can lead to increased satisfaction with the group decision and a desire to stay in the group.
- Affective conflict is an emotional conflict developed from interpersonal incompatibilities and disputes. It often produces suspicion, distrust, and hostility. Therefore, it is seen as a negative kind of conflict and an obstacle to those who experience it and is described as “dysfunctional.”
- Cognitive conflict occurs during tasks and comes from a difference in perspective and judgement. It improves decision making and allows for the freer exchange of information between group members. Cognitive conflict is seen as a positive tension that promotes good group work.
The following are examples of conflict that could be either intragroup or intergroup conflict.
- Conflict of interest is involvement in multiple interests which could possibly corrupt the motivation or decision-making.
- Cultural conflict is a type of conflict that occurs when different cultural values and beliefs clash.
- Ethnic conflict is conflict between two or more contending ethnic groups.
- Intergroup conflict is conflict between two or more groups.
- Organizational conflict is discord caused by opposition of needs, values, and interests between people working together.
- Role conflict involves incompatible demands placed upon a person in a manner that makes accomplishing both troublesome.
- Social conflict is the struggle for supremacy or autonomy between social classes.
- Work–family conflict involves incompatible demands between the work and family roles of an individual.
Conflict is rarely seen as constructive; however, in certain contexts (such as competition in sports), moderate levels of conflict can be seen as being mutually beneficial, facilitating understanding, tolerance, learning, and effectiveness. In a team setting, the group can learn to overcome intragroup conflict which would conclude to minimizing negative outcomes. With minimizing negative outcomes, positive outcomes will grow with increase of teamwork, working as a group, and increase of understanding and cooperation with teammates which eventually leads to the control on intragroup conflict.