Conflict Management in Purchasing and Supplies Function

Term Paper, 2019
12 Pages, Grade: A



Conflict Management in Purchasing and Supplies Function



Intrapersonal Conflict
Interpersonal Conflict
Intragroup Conflict
Inter-Group Conflict
Intra-Organizational Conflict


The Thomas Kilmann Model
The Win-Win Approach

Disciplinary Procedures
Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism (ADR).





Conflict Management in Purchasing and Supplies Function


Conflict is an inevitable part of the human interaction that occurs at all levels in the society such as interpersonal, intragroup, international and international. However, it is clear that conflict can be healthy or unhealthy for the parties involved. Notably, it is a common phenomenon experienced in every society on a day to day basis, therefore, it is important for the relevant parties to address it at an early stage. The purchasing and supplies functions involve a lot of human interaction thus making conflict among the involved parties inevitable. Purchasing and supplies functions often experience conflict which has to be addressed to ensure the function/department is able to perform its function effectively. This paper focuses on the conflict management in purchasing and supplies function within organizations.

Conflict is also bound to arise within the departments in every organization hence the need to address them before they escalate to a dispute. Purchasing and supplies function just like the other function experiences conflict (Lindskog, Brege & Brehmer, 2013). The parties that are likely to be involved in a conflict relating to this function includes; the departmental officers, user department officers, and suppliers as well as other functions such as finance, engineering, contracting, quality assurance, finance, business development, and executive management. Supply chain disputes typically become costly to pursue, even if there is only a relatively small amount of money involved in the dispute (Lindskog, Brege & Brehmer, 2013). Therefore, early dispute resolution becomes important and this can be achieved by customizing the supply chain contract rather than using the standard forms as well as ensuring contracts are fully performed.

The conflict has no single meaning that is universally accepted, various scholars have tried defining the concept based on their understanding. For instance, Doherty (2012) defined conflict as a type of behavior that occurs when two parties or groups are in opposition or in a battle resulting from their perceived differences. It has also been defined as the state of opposition, incompatibility or disagreement between two or more parties (people or groups) based on the differences over goals, objectives or expectation of an outcome between individuals. Cheldelin, Druckman & Fast (2014) also defined it as a situation in which there are incompatible Goals, Cognitions, or Emotions, within or between individuals or groups that lead to opposition or antagonistic interaction. However, conflict often arises between two parties as a result of stiff competition over the limited resources or incompatibility of their goals.


Most often, conflict is viewed as a distraction to the achievement of the organizational goals and hence perceived negatively. However, based on its effects, a conflict can be functional/constructive or dysfunctional/ destructive (Princen, 2014). Notably, a functional conflict is that which supports the goals of the group or individuals and significantly improves performance. This type of conflict is highly desirable because it energizes relationships among the individuals in the conflict. On the other hand, dysfunctional conflict is characterized by negative aspects such as hindering the group performance and is considered to be very damaging to the social system (Princen, 2014).

A conflict is said to be a functional conflict when it has positive effects such as; boosting the groups cohesion and performance, diffuses or creates solutions to more serious problems and conflict within the organization, defines the relations more clearly, encourages creativity and innovation as well as offer a platform for members to release their feelings and express their emotions (Princen, 2014). A conflict can also be destructive and damaging to the social system. Such conflicts often limit success and reduce productivity, hinders smooth flow of operations, hampers decision making, results to formation of competing coalition and alliances and lastly distracts members from the overall organizational goals and objectives (Princen, 2014).


Intrapersonal Conflict

Intrapersonal Conflict occurs within an individual and often involves some form of goal conflict or cognitive conflict. Goal conflict exists for individuals when their behavior results to outcomes that are mutually exclusive or have compatible elements e.g. both positive (jobs that are equally attractive) (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017).

Interpersonal Conflict

The interpersonal conflict involves two or more individuals rather than one individual. Two managers/functional heads competing for the same promotion, two executives maneuvering for a larger share of corporate capital (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017). In most cases, it arises because of power and state differences, personality differences, perception as well as personality differences.

Intragroup Conflict

The intragroup conflict involves a conflict arising because of disagreement between group members on certain issues pertaining to their group. In most cases, the conflict is as a result of the lack of consensus between members within the group (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017). It could be a substantive conflict that occurs because of the nature of the task or it could be an effective conflict which is as a result of the differences in the interpersonal relations (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017).

Inter-Group Conflict

An inter-group Conflict is a form of disagreement between various groups within an organization. The success of the organization as a whole depends upon the hormonal relations among all interdependent groups, even though some intergroup conflicts in organizations are inevitable (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017).

Intra-Organizational Conflict

This is a conflict that arises within an organization and may exist in various forms such as; vertical conflict, horizontal conflict, and role conflict.

- Vertical conflict refers to any conflict between levels in an organization; superior-subordinate conflict is one example (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017). Vertical conflicts usually arise because superiors attempt to control subordinates yet they are unwilling to cooperate.
- Horizontal Conflict refers to the conflict between employees or departments at the same hierarchical level in an organization (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017).
- Role Conflict refers to a conflict that often arises due to ambiguity in the roles that each employee is expected to perform (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017). This conflict is often manifested in accusations of individuals overreaching their mandate.
- Line/staff conflict refers to the conflict that arises between the various functions within the organization. This could involve the supply chain department and the marketing department and such conflict often arise due to competition for the scarce resources within the organization (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017).
- Status conflict is also a form of conflict that arises within an organization where different groups or individual within the institution are fighting for status and prestige (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017). This level of conflict is likely to occur where an individual’s roles and mandate are not clearly defined.
- Political conflict is a conflict where individuals and groups exercise their power to influence the processes used in the organization and its goals so as to advance their personal interests (Collins & O'Rourke, 2017).


Ambiguous jurisdiction/responsibility; conflict often arise between team members or employees because of the unclarity on the responsibilities assigned to each. This often results in individuals overreaching their mandate and taking the duties of another person (Spangler, 2018). Such scenarios may also result from power vacuum due to the uncertainty on who is expected to perform the specific task in question.

Authority Imbalance; authority imbalance refers to a scenario where an individual’s authority is limited compared to responsibilities and they cannot be able to perform their duties effectively without necessarily referring to their superiors for approval (Spangler, 2018). Therefore, the limiting of their authority can be seen as undermining their position and status thus resulting in a conflict.

Variation in group perception, values, and goals; conflict in an organization may arise because of the differences in what the groups believe or perceive to be right or important. In addition, due to the differences in the personality of the group member of the employees, conflict is likely to arise (Spangler, 2018). Lastly, each group or functions within the organizations may engage in a conflict because of the goal differences between these departments. For instance, the finance department may be having an objective of minimizing their spending due to the budget limit while the purchasing function intent to meet the end user department needs through the acquisition of the resources (Spangler, 2018). Such a scenario is likely to result in a conflict between these functions.

The difference in Personalities; a difference in personalities among employees is another cause of workplace conflict. Employees come from different backgrounds and experiences, which play a role in shaping their personalities (Spangler, 2018). When employees fail to understand or accept the differences in each other's personalities, problems arise in the workplace. This is a major cause of the interpersonal conflict.

Poor Communication/ communication barrier; poor communication is one of the main causes of conflict between employees in the workplace. This can be as a result of the difference in communication styles or a failure to communicate (Spangler, 2018). Poor communication in the workplace not only causes conflict but also decreases productivity and employee morale.

Competition for the limited resources; scarcity of resources within an organization is likely to spur competition among the members thus creating unnecessary conflict between members (Spangler, 2018). However, conflicts arising from this cause are easy to address and manage by setting out guidelines on the utilization of the resources or through the provision of sufficient resources.

Dependency on one party; various functional units within the organizations depends on the operations of other units within the same institution. For instance, the success of the production department is tied to the procurement department which acquires the raw materials on behalf of the organization (Spangler, 2018). Therefore, a conflict may arise between these two functions in an instance where failure by the procurement functions hinders the success of the production function.

N/B: There are several sources of conflict that are specific to the purchasing and supplies function. They include non-compliance to policies i.e (constitution, PPDA act, regulations as well as circulars), personality clashes between suppliers and buyers, breach of supplies contracts (late delivery, variation in prices, non-conformance to quality standards, order cancellations and lastly logistics or transportation costs.


The Thomas Kilmann Model

The model was designed by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann and was based on two perspectives/dimension that includes assertiveness and cooperativeness. Assertiveness is the state of being confidently aggressive, being self-assured and without fear of stating what one wants and not willing to let go. On the other hand, cooperative refers to the willingness to work with others and to engage with the aim of achieving a solution. (Leiner & Schliesser, 2017). The model presented five responses to conflict.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Conflict Management in Purchasing and Supplies Function
Dedan Kimathi University of Technology
MSC supply Chain Management
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Conflict Management, Conflict Management in Purchasing and Supplies Function
Quote paper
Timothy Mwangi Nduru (Author), 2019, Conflict Management in Purchasing and Supplies Function, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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