What Is the Basis for Most Team Conflict?
Out of the many approaches to studying team conflict and its causes, two broad categories emerge: intragroup and organizational conflict levels.
The main sources of conflict on the individual and interpersonal levels are task, relationship, and process conflict.
Task conflict revolves around a specific task assigned to a team. In short, it is about the content of decisions a team makes concerning a particular task. The conflicts arise from differences in opinions, views and ideas and sometimes may result from disagreements on what the task to be performed is in the first place.
This type of conflict is less destructive when isolated than when other types of conflicts, such as process and relationship conflict, underpin it.
Relationship conflict involves differences in varying preferences, attitudes, personal and interpersonal styles. With this type of conflict, the relationships among team members are at stake. Relationship conflict is often destructive to teams due to its link to negative emotions, personal dislike and hostility.
Some scholars consider relationship conflict as a shadow of task conflict due to the link between the quality of relationships within a group and the group members' ability to carry out tasks together.
Process conflict is conflict caused by differences in the delegation of tasks and how those tasks will be solved by the team. This conflict emerges from disagreements over task responsibility and division, control over resources, and the best strategy to handle the task.
Some scholars consider process conflict as the worst form of intragroup conflict, partly because it often bleeds over into relationship conflict.
Team conflict can also arise as a consequence of intergroup conflict, or inter-organizational conflict, which is more often a problem at larger organizations, but can be an issue anywhere where there are distinct functions within a company. Organizations and their teams influence one another, so you cannot view interpersonal relationships in isolation from this dynamic between the two levels of organizational structure.
Conflict can arise due to hierarchy within an organization, which can lead to power struggles over status and control over decisions or resources. Hierarchical or status conflict, like disagreements between management and labor, creates vertical strain within an organization, and can be deeply disruptive. If not carefully addressed, these conflicts can end up being resolved purely on the basis of power relations, which can result in resentment, anger, and further disruption.
Inter-functional conflict is horizontal conflict between departments, functions, or teams, like sales vs production, legal vs marketing, etc. This strain is less likely to immediately result in a full work breakdown or organizational collapse, but if not addressed can produce long-lasting and challenging dysfunctions in an organization.