Substantive Conflict

An Introduction to Substantive Conflict

Substantive conflict is a fundamental disagreement over ends or goals to be pursued and the means for their accomplishments. This conflict often occurs when two or more organizational members disagree on their task or content issues.

A dispute with one’s boss or other team members over a plan of action to be followed, such as the marketing strategy for a new product, is an example of substantive conflict.

Jehn (1997b) characterized this type of conflict as “disagreements among group members’ ideas and opinions about the task being performed, such as disagreement regarding an organization’s current strategic position or determining the correct data to include in a report” (Jehn, 1997b, p. 288).

This type of conflict has also been labeled task conflict (Eisenhardt et al., 1997; Jehn, 1997a; Pelled et al., 1999), cognitive conflict (Amason, 1996; Cosier & Rose, 1977; Holzworth, 1983), and issue conflict (Hammer & Organ, 1978, p. 343).

When people work together every day, it is only normal that different viewpoints on a variety of substantive workplace issues will arise. At times people will disagree over such things as team and organizational goals, the allocation of resources, the distribution of rewards, policies and procedures, and task assignments.