Goal conflict is a business term that typically refers to either strategy or data plans that are made but cannot be effectively completed because of inherent differences and problems between goals. Some goals are independent and do not affect each other at all, but many goals are interdependent and depend on the same resources, systems or workers to be accomplished. When multiple goals intersect, goal conflict can occur and reduce work efficiency.

External to Internal

Employees have both personal goals in the workplace (such as winning a specific commission or a certain position) and external goals that are given to them by management. Conflict occurs when the employee is given a task with a much more complex goal than their personal goals, requiring more work and a different focus than the standard that they set for themselves. When this occurs, the employee's productivity drops.

Multiple Outcomes

Many tasks are designed not to produce only one effect, but several. Employees who work with these tasks have several goals that they are trying to meet: This produces a conflict of multiple outcomes. Which goal should the employee focus on? If only one goal should be emphasized, which should it be? These concerns can waste time and cause employees to lose productivity as they try to satisfy too many demands for a single task.

Goal Balancing

Goal balancing occurs when a single employee is given several different tasks with separate goals. Employees tend to focus on one goal and give it more attention than others at any given time. As a result, productivity is lowered and problems can occur. To achieve a balance in which each goal gets adequate attention, you must widen focus to include multiple goals at once.


In many companies, departments and employees must share a limited amount of resources to complete their tasks and fulfill their goals. This leads to unhealthy interdepartmental competition as workers back the needs of their own goals, sometimes at the expense of the goals of others.

Computer-Based Conflict

Goal conflict can also occur within the parameters of a computer program. This happens when a computer processes two tasks at the same time with limited memory to work with. If the program is not designed correctly, it will assign the tasks at the same time, causing errors.