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NCM/U1 Topic 5 Functional and Dysfunctional Conflicts


A functional conflict is the positive conflict that occurs among the people in a work group. They support the company’s goal and improve performance. Functional conflict is healthy and it is constructive disagreement between two or more individuals. A functional conflict often improves the quality of decisions, simulates creativity, innovation and encourages interest and curiosity among group members. Functional conflict helps everyone to learn the art of harmonious and efficient compromise. For instance in a group when people engage in a functional conflict, the outcome in general is very fruitful to the group itself.

A functional conflict requires people to understand and respect each other’s idea. It allows other person to speak his/her thoughts without being interrupted. People engaging in a functional conflict know that the other party is a part of the group. It involves listening to what other has to say. Every other person can provide a valuable insight and suggestion to help solve a crisis. This creates willingness to cooperate. Furthermore in order for functional conflict to be a success, each individual must be given certain freedom of speech and work. Forcing someone to do things they don’t agree is not an effective way to resolve a conflict.

The conflict which supports the goals of a group and also improves it performance is known as a functional or a positive conflict. The functional conflict is helpful in the achievement of the goals of a group as it aids in –

(i) Analytical thinking: During a conflict the members of a group display analytical thinking in identifying various alternatives. In absence of conflict, they might not have been creative or even might have been lethargic. The conflicts may include challenge to such views, rules, policies, purpose and plans which entail a significant analysis so as to justify these groups as they are or make other alterations that may be necessary.

(ii) Diffusing tension among the members of the group: When conflict is allowed to express openly it can help in reducing the tension among the members of the group which would otherwise remain suppressed. Suppression of tension can lead to imaginative distortion of truth, sense of frustration and tension, high mental exaggerations and biased opinions resulting in fear and distrust. When members express themselves, they get some psychological satisfaction. This also leads to reduction of stress among the involved members.

(iii) Promote Competition: Conflicts results in increase competition and this increased competition in turn results in more efforts. Some persons are highly motivated by conflict and service competition. Such conflict and competition can result in increased effort and output.

(iv) Promote group cohesiveness: Some experts believe that conflict creates solidarity among the members of the group it also increases loyalty in the members of the group and inculcates a feeling of group identity as the members of a group compete with outsiders. This increased group cohesiveness can help the management in achieving the organizational goals effectively.

(v) Facing challenges: The abilities of individuals as well as groups can be tested during conflict. Conflict creates challenges for them and to face these challenges individual and group to need to be creative and dynamic. When they are able overcome these challenges successfully it leads to a search for the alternatives to the present methods which results in organizational development.

(vi) Organizational change: It has been seen that some times conflict stimulates change among the members of a group. Whenever people are faced with conflict, there is a change in their attitudes and they become ready for the change to meet the requirements of the situation

(vii) Increased awareness: Conflict creates an increased awareness about the problems faced by the group. The group members also become aware of the members involved in the problem and the methods adopted to solve the problem.

(viii) Quality of decision: Conflict result s in high quality decisions taken by the members of a group. During the conflict, the members express the opposing views and perspective which results in some high quality decisions. The members share the information and examine the reasoning of other members to develop new decisions.

(ix) Identification of weakness: The weaknesses of a group and its members can be identified easily during the conflict. It becomes easier for the management to remove these weaknesses once it becomes aware of these.


Dysfunctional conflict is conflict that leads to a decline in communication or the performance of a group. Dysfunctional conflict can be an overabundance of conflict or a lack of sufficient motivating conflict.

The conflict which obstructs the achievement of the goals of a group is called a dysfunctional or destructive conflict. The characteristics of a dysfunction conflict are:-

(i) Increased tension: A dysfunctional conflict can cause high level of tension among the members of a group and in some cases it becomes difficult for the management to resolve such a conflict. This increased tension may result in anxiety uncertainty, hostility and frustration among the members of a group.

(ii) High rate of employee turn over: Dysfunctional conflicts can cause some employees to leave the organization if they are not able to resolve the conflict in their favor. In such a case it is the organization that has to suffer to loss of its valuable employees.

(iii) Increased dissatisfaction: Dissatisfaction can be increased among the members of the party that looses in conflict. This struggle during conflict also results in decreased concentration on the job and in this way it can also adversely affect the productivity of the whole group.

(iv) Distrust: Conflict can result in a climate of distrust among the members of a group and also in the organization. It can decrease the level of cohesiveness among the group members who will have negative feelings towards other members of the group and avoid interaction with them.

(v) Distraction from organizational goals: Conflicts can distract the members of a group from the organizational goals they are supposed to achieved but during a conflict the members may waste their time and energy in making efforts for emerging as winners in the on-going conflict in the group and their attention from the organizational goals may be diverted. Personal victory becomes more important for the members involved in the conflict and the organizational goals take a back seat.

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