Intrapersonal conflict is conflict that arises within one person. It involves uncertainty about what is expected or wanted or a sense of inadequacy to perform a task. In organizations, intrapersonal conflict,
“Occurs when an organizational member is required to perform certain tasks and roles that do not match with his or her expertise, interests, goals and values.” (Rahim, 2015, p. 22)
Most organizational team members face the challenge of coping with this type of conflict every day. If left unmitigated, it can have negative impacts on the individual and organization. However, there are things that the organization and the individual’s supervisor can do to support employees with managing this type of conflict.
Types of Intrapersonal Conflict – Decision-Making
Organizational team members face intrapersonal conflict in decision-making almost every day. Whether that individual must choose between two appealing alternatives, one appealing and one unappealing alternative, or two unappealing alternatives, the decision-making process can create anxiety and uncertainty.
Supporting Team Members with Decision-Making
When team members are experiencing intrapersonal conflict related to decision-making, managers can support their people by empowering them and helping them build decision-making skills. Here are some things to try:
- Discuss decision principles to help guide your team member in the decision-making process. These might include
- Show your belief in them – set your team member up to be successful. This might include
Types of Intrapersonal Conflict – Role Conflict
A role is the behaviour and attitudes expected of a person who occupies a given position or status. For example, a given manager’s role may include supervising team members, managing schedules and supporting excellent customer service. Role conflict occurs when a person in a particular role is required to perform two or more roles that present contrasting, contradictory or even mutually exclusive activities.
Unmitigated role conflict can lead to numerous emotional costs including
- Low job satisfaction
- Low confidence
- Tension and anxiety
- Lack of confidence in the organization
- Feel powerless to influence decision-making
It also can lead to behavioural costs such as
- Withdrawal or avoidance of those who are seen as creating the conflict (ie. Managers)
- Lack of job investment and commitment to the organization
- Increased desire to leave the job and/or organization
Supporting Team Members with Role Conflict
Role conflict develops when individual goals and role expectations don’t match up. This can arise from sources such as organizational structure, supervisory style, misassignment of tasks and inappropriate demand on capacity. Managers and business owners can help team members resolve role conflict through both role analysis and job design.
Role Analysis involves clarifying the details of a specific role with input from multiple members of the organization. When conducting a role analysis, you will want to clarify
- The purpose of the role
- The perception of the role
- Expectations of the person in the role for those around them
- Expectations of the person in the role for themselves
- The role profile
By clarifying expectations and the day-to-day purpose and perception, role conflict can be minimized.
Job design involves planning of the job, including its contents, the methods of performing the job and how it relates to other jobs in the organization. Job design is two-fold, including job engineering and job enrichment.
Job engineering involves developing robust, accurate job descriptions that can help align expectations among stakeholders.
Job enrichment means improving motivational factors such as achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and opportunity for growth. Factors that managers can help employees address include
- Skill variety
- Task identity
- Task significance
Intrapersonal conflict is something that most organizational team members face each day. When unmitigated it can have far reaching impacts on many parts of the organization. By supporting employees with decision-making and role conflict, managers and business owners can help employees through intrapersonal conflict and build skills along the way.
Lancefield, David. “5 Strategies to Empower Employees to Make Decisions.” Harvard Business Review, 20 Mar. 2023, hbr.org/2023/03/5-strategies-to-empower-employees-to-make-decisions.
M Afzalur Rahim. Managing Conflict in Organizations. New Brunswick (U.S.A.), Transaction Publishers, 2015.