The Positive and Negative Effects of Conflict

Conflict is a natural part of life, but it can have detrimental effects on the people who experience it. It is important to address conflicts as soon as they occur, before they escalate. Conflicts can take many forms, from simple misunderstandings to violent confrontations. They can also lead to a loss of work productivity and morale. Conflicts in the workplace can be caused by a number of factors, including a lack of clear communication between employees, unclear roles and responsibilities, unhealthy competition, new management, internal system changes, mergers, acquisitions and layoffs.

The root cause of most conflict is frustration. Frustration can be caused by a wide variety of things, including disagreement over performance goals, failure to get a promotion or raise, competition for scarce economic resources, incompatible personal values and behaviors, or even a minor slight or annoying habit that rubs someone the wrong way. Conflicts often escalate because they are fueled by anger and the desire to punish those who have wronged you.

In the business world, there is a common saying that “if you run into one jerk in a day, it’s bad luck; if you run into two jerks, it’s a coincidence; but if you run into three or more jerks in a day, then it is definitely not your fault!” This is true in the workplace too, where difficult people can be a major source of conflict. Sometimes the problems with difficult people cross over into unethical business behavior, such as abusive treatment of co-workers or customers, discrimination and violations of policies and procedures.

Conflict can be a natural part of human interaction and can even serve a purpose by providing an opportunity for potential leaders to emerge. It allows people to hear different points of view and opinions, and can help them discover where there are misunderstandings or gaps in communication. Conflict also teaches people how to resolve differences and build trust.

The negative effects of conflict are often most visible in those directly involved, but they can have ripple effects throughout an organization. A loss of employee loyalty, a decrease in productivity and morale, and a lack of focus on corporate goals can all result from conflict. Conflicts can also be costly, as they can result in lost customer or vendor loyalty, which is difficult to regain once it has been lost.

Conflicts can also have long-lasting effects on a country’s economy. The financial costs of a war can be significant, both during the conflict and afterward, due to decreased real revenue and increased military spending. These effects can reduce growth and limit a country’s ability to promote social progress and reduce poverty. The resulting uncertainty can also deter investment, further compounding the effects of conflict. (Hegre and Sambanis 2006.) In addition, the direct and indirect costs of a war can spill over to neighboring states through trade disruptions, depressing economic activity and creating social strains. These impacts can have debilitating effects on a nation, lasting well beyond the end of a war.