Conflict Vs. Dispute

A conflict is more likely to occur anytime a group is gathered in pursuit of a common goal or cause, according to the Ohio State University Extension, making work the perfect breeding ground for conflict. Each person wants to contribute to what he sees as his goal. Conflict results when people have different visions of the way they do business.


A dispute is a disagreement over a particular issue between two people or groups. A dispute is a short-term occurrence. A common disagreement at work might be who gets to work the best shift, for instance. If a dispute arises over hours because employees get to choose them, management will resolve the dispute by assigning their shifts. The incident will not affect their work throughout the day, however.


Conflict results from continual disputes as the frustration level rises, according to the Beyond Intractability Project. If two workers continually dispute one another over their tasks, for example, they may begin to see each other as stubborn, aggressive or hostile and develop a mutual dislike of one another. This can increase their disputes and eventually result in full-blown conflict over their work methods or a conflict on a personal level.

Managing Conlicts

Conflict can occur between individual employees or groups of employees. When a conflict occurs, it is important to take several steps. The first is to observe the actions of employees, determine the source of the conflict and listen carefully to everyone involved. Eventually, a compromise should be reached. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to forge a true compromise in which the needs of all parties would be met. According to the University of Wisconsin, it is important to maintain a positive attitude and focus on coming to an agreement that is the most logical and the best for the organization. Conflict resolution can help individual team members see their shared goals as employees of a company.

Managing Disputes

The individual workers as well as the management team should be actively involved in preventing disputes from turning into conflicts. The same basic approach for conflict resolution can be taken in dispute resolution. The difference between dispute and conflict resolution is really just the stage at which the problem is addressed. Conflict resolution, especially conflict between groups, is much more difficult to handle than dispute resolution, which is necessary damage control.


Employees may have disputes and conflicts about different things, including their tasks, their relationships to one another, or the way they would like to do things. It is important to notice the source of the problem. Disputes over simple tasks, for instance, may not result in long-term conflict. But interpersonal conflicts are likely to take root if problems are not continually addressed. And some things just blow over. A person might tolerate certain bothersome behaviors usually, but build resentment that might surface on one or two occasions in the form of conflict. Later, the person might go back to tolerating the behavior on an everyday basis.


About the Author

Josalin Mitchell began her writing career in 2009. She has written web content as well as grants, training manuals, reports and brochures for nonprofit agencies. Mitchell has a Bachelor of Arts in English and women's studies and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching in English education.