Friday, March 25, 2011

Conflict: Part 3 - Different Types of Conflict

Different Types of Conflict
        There is more than one type of conflict. It also bears mentioning that conflict need not always be a negative occurrence. Functional conflict actually serves to support the goals of the group and improve its performance.[1] In the case of church world this can translate into reaching better decisions about how to allocate limited funds available for ministry. We find a biblical example of this in the Book of Acts. Paul and Barnabas had a “sharp disagreement” (Acts 15:37-39 ESV) and parted ways yet we know that the ministries of both men successfully continued. The conflict between Paul and Barnabas could have become dysfunctional and hindered the ministry of both yet they each put the disagreement behind them and carried on the work of the Lord.[2]
In contract, dysfunctional conflict hinders the group, diverts energies and resources, promotes interpersonal hostilities, and overall creates a negative environment. Where functional, or constructive, conflict may serve to bring problems to the surface where they can be addressed, dysfunctional, or destructive, conflict yields results that work against the group or church.
        There are two types of conflict that will be discussed here: substantive conflict and emotional conflict. Substantive conflict is a fundamental disagreement concerning the ends or goals and the means for their accomplishment.[3] In the secular world this might be something like a disagreement over a marketing strategy to be used in bring a new product to market or which capital project shall receive funding and which will be declined. In church world this can be something such as which translation of the Bible should be used in the pulpit or hermeneutical disagreements of a passage of Scripture. The main point is that this type of conflict is rooted in a disagreement for reasons other than emotional ones. Are doing this or are we doing that? Are we paying for this or are we paying for that? Deeply held views in support of opposing positions for various reasons are indicative of substantive conflict.
        Emotional conflict involves interpersonal difficulties that arise over feelings of anger, mistrust, dislike, fear and resentment. This could also be referred to as personality clashes.[4] Superior-subordinate relationships in both the secular and church world are common. Specifically in the church this type of conflict can arise when there are significant changes to programming or style of music that create resentment and anger over the changes. In fact, change throws people off balance and creates questions about direction. Conflict accelerates as change accelerates.[5]
There are different subcategories of conflict such as task conflict, relationship conflict, and process conflict. These subcategories, while certainly holding some interest for the author, simply break into smaller pieces the discussion of substantive and emotional conflict. They bear mentioning simply for the purpose of acknowledging them from the research conducted.

[1] Robbins, Stephen P. Organizational Behavior 9th Ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), 385-387.
[2] Goodall, Wayde I. Conflict Management for Church Leaders. (Springfield, MO: Global University, 2006), 18.
[3] Schermerhorn, Jr., John R., James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn. Organizational Behavior, 8th Ed. (Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003), 379.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Gangel, Kenneth O. Team Leadership in Christian Ministry. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1970, 1974, 1981, 1997), 188.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for you post about conflict! I am doing some research about what the Word says regarding task conflict in the workplace. I too attend Liberty University. Best to you studies!

Randy said...

I really appreciate the documentation you provide with your posts. It is very helpful for further study.

Chris Sanchez said...

This has been a particularly popular post that receives a lot of page views each month. It is a blessing to know that so many people find it useful.