Intragroup Conflict

Understanding Intragroup Conflict

Intragroup conflict is conflict originating among members of a group or its subgroups regarding incompatibility, incongruence, or disagreement over goals, functions, or activities of the group.

Intragroup conflict is often about how problems should be solved and how scarce resources should be allocated. Unless a substantial number of the members of a group or its subgroups are involved in conflict, it is not classified as intragroup conflict.

According to Jarboe & Witteman, “an intragroup problem exists whenever a group member perceives a difference between what is presently occurring between him or her and the group and what he or she desires to occur” (Jarboe & Witteman, 1996, p. 316).

Study Of Groups And Their Impacts In Organization

The study of groups in organizations has received significant attention for several reasons. First, groups are the building blocks of an organization. Second, groups provide the primary mechanism for the attainment of organizational goals. Third, groups provide psychological and other support to the individual members.

There are numerous definitions of groups (Shaw, 1981; Forsyth, 1983). These definitions have mainly focused on the following criteria: objectives, interaction, and interdependence. To make the discussion of conflict within a group meaningful, the definition a group include the following:

  • A group must consist of two or more members.
  • A group must possess a stable structure; that is, a collection of individuals that changes (e.g., passengers in an airplane) cannot be considered a group.
  • The members should be interdependent.
  • The members should interact with each other.
  • The members should work toward the attainment of a common goal(s).

Types of Groups

Numerous kinds of groups are found in organizations. Groups can be broadly classified as formal or informal. Following are a classification and discussion of these groups:

A.  Formal Groups

The formal groups are formed by the organization for the purpose of attaining certain goals. These groups can be classified as task or project groups.

  1. Task Group
    Groups that are formed around certain tasks or functions and remain in existence for a long period of time called task or functional groups.

    Fiedler (1967) further classified task groups into three types according to the nature of task interdependencies among group members in attaining their group objectives. The three types of task groups are interacting, coaching, and counteracting.

    Interacting group: In this group, the performance of a task by a member depends on the completion of the task assigned to another member. A production team on the assembly line, where the output of one worker becomes the input of another worker, is an example of an interacting group.

    Coaching group: This is a group in which the members perform their functions relatively independently of each other. Examples of this type of group are faculty groups whose members perform their teaching and research functions relatively independently of each other.

    Counteracting group: This is composed of persons who work together for the purpose of negotiating and reconciling conflicting opinions and purposes. This type of group is exemplified by a labor-management negotiating team.
  2. Project groups:
    Groups formed for the purpose of completing specific projects or tasks are called project groups or task forces. This group remains in existence for a limited period of time—a phase-out takes place after the goals of the project or tasks are attained.

B.  Informal Groups

Informal groups are formed by the organizational members without any direction from management. These groups exist to satisfy certain needs not met by the formal groups. Sometimes the goals of the formal and informal groups are not consistent; that is, they are in conflict. Two types of the informal groups are interest and friendship groups.

  1. Interest Groups: These groups are formed by the organizational members to satisfy their common interest. For example, employees may join an interest group to serve on the United Way campaign, to discuss computer software, or to seek redress of their grievances from management.
  2. Friendship Groups: These groups are formed by employees to satisfy their social needs, such as friendship, support, esteem, and belongingness. For example, employees may join such a group to play golf or cards, to watch movies, or to discuss political events. These groups may exist beyond the formal organization because they satisfy certain human needs.

It is important to recognize that informal groups are an important part of organizational life. Greenberg and Baron (2008. p. 293) recognize that informal friendship groups can have beneficial effects on organizational functioning.