Types of conflict

There are generally four types of conflict: relationship, task, process, and status.


This is what we most often assume is happening when we get into a conflict—a clash of personalities.

What it is?

A personal disagreement. Sometimes called an interpersonal or emotional conflict, it’s when one or both of you feel disrespected or hurt.

It includes:
• Snapping at each other in meetings
• Exchanging snarky emails
• Avoiding eye contact in the hallway
• Interrupting, or talking over, a colleague in a meeting
• Using a condescending tone to indicate your disagreement
• Arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong

Quite often a relationship conflict starts as something else. A disagreement over a project schedule escalates to bickering that disrupts a team meeting. Or a difference of opinion on the company’s strategy devolves into a heated debate about who’s right and who’s wrong. You may both have valid points, and good intentions, but some disagreements turn ugly.


The most common source of disagreement at work is task conflict.

What it is?

A dispute over the goal of a task or project or what you’re trying to achieve.

This includes disagreements about:
• The agenda for a staff meeting
• How the success of a new initiative should be defined or measured
• Whether the customers or the employees should come first
• How much risk a company should assume when partnering with other organizations
• Whether to prioritize revenue or customer satisfaction

The benefits of managing it well

When we have productive discussions about our different views of project goals or how we should define success, we gain valuable insights


Another common type of conflict is not about what you’re doing but how you’re doing it.

What it is?

A disagreement over how to carry out a project or task, the means or process you use to reach your goal.

This includes differences on:
• The best tactic for reaching a quarterly target
• How to implement a new HR policy
• How decisions should be made in a meeting
• How quickly a project should be completed
• Who should be consulted and included as the project is carried out

Process disagreements are easily confused with task conflicts. You think you’re arguing over the outcome when really you can’t agree on how to make a decision.

The benefits of managing it well

Disagreements over how to get something done can help bring about process improvements or unearth hidden benefits.

Preparing for Conflict Before It Happens

For example, you might get locked into a battle with a coworker over the right strategy for a new project when what you need to settle is not the specific tactic but who gets to make the final call. Or you think the company
should do customer research first and a coworker thinks it should get a good-enough product out in the market and see what happens.


A less common—but still problematic—source of conflict is when people disagree over their standing within a group..

What it is?

A disagreement over who’s in charge or who deserves credit for the work. For example, you think you should be leading an initiative, while your worker thinks he should.

It can also include:
• Jockeying for leadership, especially in a team without a formal or designated leader
• Competing to run a high-profile project
• Arguing over or dominating shared resources
• Competing for status symbols, such as the corner office, the latest technology, or having an administrative assistant

The benefits of managing it well

When a status conflict is resolved, there’s clarity for the team and anyone working with them.A clear status hierarchy is efficient in that everyone knows his or her role and responsibility.

No matter what kind of conflict you’re having—or if your conflict is a mess of all four types—you aren’t stuck.
You have options for moving forward.

Arnab Ghosh

My name is Arnab Ghosh. I have been working as a Corporate professional for the past 19 years. After completing my graduation from City College {University of Calcutta}, I started my career with R.S.Software India, followed by Vedika Software Pvt.Ltd. Have worked with industry giants such as Convergys, Satyam Nipuna Services, Wipro BPO, Tata Teleservices Limited, Aircel, TaxiForSure, Brainware University among others. I am a certified trainer from Aircel Academy – Manager As a Coach & Trainer. I have also completed certifications from TBO Academy & Alison Education in the field of “Soft Skills“, the knowledge of which I apply to my students at my University regularly. I have also successfully completed “The Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” certification from Google and “Digital Marketing Course” from TBO Academy. I was awarded “Google Analytics for Beginners” certificate by Google after successfully completing their course. I have achieved CEFR level B2 (Upper Intermediate) in a test of English proficiency from the British Council English Score. I am a bundle of drive, energy, commitment, and dedication and firmly believe in living my life in my own terms, be it working my heart out to achieve business targets or enjoying my spare time doing things that give me joy and feelings of contentment. My hobbies include reading books & listening to music and blogging. I sincerely believe that one should never lose focus in life and that one has to put in a lot of hard work & effort to reach the top.