Affective Conflict

An Introduction to Affective Conflict

Affective conflict occurs when two interacting social entities, while trying to solve a problem together, become aware that their feelings and emotions regarding some or all the issues are incompatible (Guetzkow & Gyr, 1954).

According to Pelled et al., affective conflict is “a condition in which group members have interpersonal clashes characterized by anger, frustration, and other negative feelings” (p. 2).

Affective conflict is commonly termed as a “clash of personalities” because it involves interpersonal difficulties that arise over feelings of anger, mistrust, dislike, fear, resentment, and the like.

This category of conflict has been labeled psychological conflict (Ross & Ross, 1989, p. 139), relationship conflict (Jehn, 1997a), emotional conflict (Pelled, Eisenhardt, & Xin, 1999), and interpersonal conflict (Eisenhardt, Kahwajy, & Bourgeois, 1997).

It is appropriate to distinguish between substantive and affective conflicts. Whereas affective conflict is concerned with the feelings or emotions of the conflicting parties, substantive conflict is associated with the task or other business-related issues involved in such a situation.

When affective conflicts creep into work situations, they can drain energies and distract people from task priorities and goals. Yet, they emerge in a wide variety of settings and are common in teams, among co-workers, and in superior-subordinate relationships.