The Causes, Effects And Remedies Of Organization Conflicts

The Causes, Effects And Remedies Of Organization Conflicts In Nigeria Teaching Hospital

Practically speaking, the incidence of conflict in any organization is inevitable.  Its occurrence has been the concern of most managers, psychologists, and management researchers.  As a result of this, many literature abound on this topic.  This chapter will dwell on the most important submissions on this subject.

For the purpose of clarity, the available literature are discussed under the following subheadings causes of conflict, types of conflict, effects of conflicts, and reduction of conflict.


It is the duty of management to know the potential clauses of conflict and be able to predict how, when and why the arise (Donaldson, 1995: 104).  There are many potential causes of conflict in a typical organization.

Maier and Verse (1982:572) described the various causes of organization conflict as those things that happen when someone knowingly or unknowingly violates the rules or norms of another group or hurts another’s feelings or embarrasses an individual in front of peers.  Personality differences, different kinds of training, different organizational goals, and different control or reward system can also generate variances in perception that often lead to frustration and conflict significantly, Stoner and Wankel (1986:383) pointed out that organizational conflict sterns from the need to share scarce resources, difference in goals between organization units, the interdependence of work activities in the organizational ambiguities and individual life style.  This agrees with the earlier submission of Maier and Verse (1982:572).  Conflict is often provoked when two persons or more/units with mutually exclusive goals attempt to reach these goals simultaneously in situation of search or limited resources.  Competition for status, control and funds is always the resultant outcome.

Although Numerof (1982:352) agrees with the above submissions, headed that such conflict – inducing differences or incompatibility can be either real or imagined or both.  This due was shared by Pfiffner and Sherwood (1968:34-35).  They contended that individuals environment and experienced which in turn affects how the individuals set his/her own goal.

William and Anthony (1991:356) have considered that the coherent mechanism and dynamics of an organization can, and does engender conflict situations.  Such conflict according to them arise from changes in role expectation and/or standard of performance, changes in status, that is, increasing or due to redefinition or shift in priorities, organizational overlap, and conflict between individual or group within the organization.

Donaldsons (1995) analysis agrees with the general view on the causes of conflict in an organization, but it was specifically based on the health institution.  Similarly, he revealed that conflict do occur along and within major professional or occupational divides or even between hospital hierarchy.

From the ongoing, the following causes of conflict can be summarized:

  1. Difference of goals
  2. Shored resources
  • Interdependence work activities
  1. Difference in value or perception and
  2. Organizational ambiguities

One of the major causes of conflict in organization arise from the incompatibility between organizational goals individual goals.  This is found in many works such as those of Pfiffer and Sherwood, 1968:34; Haiman et al, 1978: 4.7; Stoner and Wonkel, 1968:383; William and Anthony, 1991:537.  The basis for this is that each level suggests, its own system of responsibility, loyalties and commitment.  Every individual has his own goals, and this within the organization there are other requirement such as, between individuals, between individuals and group, between group and organization.  This requirement leads to infinite goals and create divergent opportunities in aspiration (Efiffner and Sherwood, 1968:34).

Stoner and Wonkel (1986:383) pointed out that sub-units tend to became specialized or differentiated as they develop dissimilar goals, tasks, and personnel, such differentiation frequently leads to conflict of interest or priorities in the expense of the agreed over all goals.  In the opinion of William and Anthony (1991:551) a change of goals can also bring about conflict in an organization such conflict would probably occur between members of a university faculty if the primary goal of such a university was to change from its initial goals (researcher) to another goals (teaching).  The research oriented faculty would be in conflict with those who have a research bias may likely be frustrated and would doubtlessly attempt to reverse the emphasis, thus causing conflict situation, indeed major changes in an organizations mission can be a common on cause for conflict.  This is especially the case in large organizations thriving in a volatile environment.

In an experiment carried out by the British Association of Medical Manager, it was discovered that despite the sophistication in clinical or technical skill and health institution cannot function properly simple set of value, ideas and goals (Sampson, 1994).


Insufficient resources relating to man, material, money and time, are normal conditions in an organization (Belaseo et al, 1981:168).  This is the condition facing many establishments in Nigeria (Edozie, 1997:2).  He summarized the problem as a situation of unlimited needs chasing limited resources.

William and Anthony (1991:538) stated that when two or more people or group compete for the same set of resources or reward(s) they are thrown into conflict.  As a result, their energy and attention are diverted from pursing their basic purpose or goal to gaining a large share of the limited resources of rewards.  Numberof (1982:358) pointed out that high degree of competition in health care organization over share of limited resources are able to keep conflict alive in that organization.  He saw a situation where an administrator who is concern with cost containment issue and the doctor whose professional socialization has taught him to save lives at any cost likely to come into conflict despite their ostensible parallel objectives.  He voiced out that when every one in the organization has access to resources, each can live a potentially parallel independent existence away from others, even if resources are wasted no one suffers and no one wasted no one will be angry.  But it will not be possible for everyone to have access to the limited resources and resources can never be unlimited.  Even in this situation, people tend to believe that every one should have equal access to resources since each person thinks that needs are more pressing or important.  A situation like this creates a fertile ground for frequent conflict with others in the organization.


Work independence exists when two or more sub-units depends on each other to complete their respective task.  In such a case the potential for a high degree of conflicts or co-operation exists depending on how the situation is managed (Stoner and Wonkel, 1986:386).

According to Belaseo et al (1981:169) work can come in spurts with heavy demands and high demands.  And if the particular pattern cannot be predicted, resentment and conflict will likely result.  This means that workflow that crate interdependence unpredictability and inadequate information can cause conflict.  Good communication is essential to the optimum effectiveness of a team (Mejeh, 1997).

Mondy et al (1983:405) saw another way conflict can occur.  This is when there is poorly defined responsibility in an interdependent work activity.  If there is performance failure, various work groups or individuals may accuse each other as being the cause of the failure.  Also if there is role overlap which has the potential to crate considerable conflict among employee, conflict will certainly occur in such organization.  Medical staff have been perceived as extremely poor team players, who interested only in their own clinical empires with little appreciation of the world out side medicine and the environment in which the organization exist (Sampson 1994:1506).  Because of the attitude of physician in tea work, Beanand laliberty (1990:8) adviced that other staff of the hospital should not take physicians as employees of the hospital.  A doctor’s primary loyalty is to or her patient not to the hospital.


Supervisors frequently fail to recognize this and physician to adhere rigidly to all hospital policies.  Moreover the doctor does not always have to be in control.  However, those who believe that doctor should not assume functional cannot often ignore the realities of hospital organization.  Organizationally the doctor is not the boss.  Hospital employees must be able to recognize and accept those difference of they wish to maintain human – relations harmony within the hospital setting.



Authors like Scanlan et al (1979:208) Numerof (1982:35); Schmidt (1974:178); Stoner and Freeman (1980:400) and others seem to have reached a consensus that differences in value or perception or status breeds conflicts.

According to Koontz and Weithrich (1988:149) value is an influence to decision making in all organization level, managers and non managers alike.  Pfiffner and Sherwood (1994:198) believe that the decision one takes is a product of his perception and attitude which in turn are shaped by this individual experiences and the environment.


Griffin’s inquiry (1983) on National Health Scheme Management, show that doctors perceived the decision taken by health managers as being politically and financial expedient rather than in the interest of the patients.  Their decisions were often taken behind close doors by some mysteries process and delivered to medical staff with or without the veneer of a consultative process.  On the part of managers, doctors have been in may instances regard as unruly bunch of maverick with more power than is desirable and no sense of responsibility.  For this hospital as a whole (Sampson 1994).


William and Anthony (1991:538) opined that heterogeneous culture bring value and attitude into conflict easily, culture is seen as mixed value, belief, assumption, meaning or expectation that members of a particular organization, group or sub-group how in common and that they use as behaviour and problem solving guides.  Close examination of this shows that the above scenario is a fertile ground for conflict.



Huczynki and Buctianam (1991:500); Stoner and Freeman (1989:400) believes that individuals or groups may be uncertain as to who is responsible for performing certain tasks or duties or who has authority to direct whom.  The individual or group may unwillingly make reasonable demands on each other especially where about each other.  Each party may then reject or claim responsibility and the result may be conflict.  Sometimes, an organization can cause conflict for its members because it fails to make goals and work responsibilities clear (Daumer, 1992).  Most times employees including supervisor do not understand that organizational value structure (Bean and Liberty 1980:8).  The inability of supervisor and health care employees to understand their organizational value structure has often resulted to frustration among the employees.  All the employees including the leaders desire to be clear as to what their respective roles are.  They must all understand who does what if conflict is to be minimized or avoided whenever there is ambiguous work demand people are not clear regarding the expectations others hold of them.  They are subject to high degrees of stress.  At times they do not know how supervisor expect of them or hold of them.  There is, therefore, need for feedback regarding if people’s performance, the need to know how supervisor are evaluating what they do.  The one way communication pattern adds to the stress of ambiguous expectation is that subordinate does not have opportunities to clarify the execution (Number of, 1982:35)


Broadly speaking, organizational conflict can be internal and external.  The two groups have been subset into several other categories or type depending on their nature and origin.  Conflict can take any of these forms – interpersonal conflict, intra personal conflict, intra group conflict, (Williams and Anthony, 1991:535; Stoner and Wankel, 1986:382).

Studies have shown that inter personal and intra group conflict are the most significant because they involve two or more component parts of an organization while inter personal and intra group conflicts are closely associated with organization behaviour.




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