Conflict and Resolution in Government


A study done by the American Management Association concluded that managers spend approximately 24% of their time attending to disputes (Nouman, Khan & Khan, 2011). Therefore, it is natural for conflicts to arise at all levels of human interaction. Governments serve people with varying cultural backgrounds and interests. With this in mind, they are expected to harbor different types of conflicts. It is very difficult to implement a development agenda in an environment full of warring parties. Conflict resolution mechanisms are, thus, indispensible to an ambitious government. In view of that, governments and government institutions ensure peace by acknowledging diversity and exercising equality in their undertakings. For instance, a limited government takes care of individual and group interests. Besides, some governments invest in bodies that mediate between them and other parties. This paper provides an insight into conflict resolution within government organizations.

Definition of a Conflict

A conflict occurs when two people or groups of people disagree on certain issues (Nouman, Khan & Khan, 2011). Conflicts also arise when parties feel that their interests are not considered by other parties. According to Nouman, Khan and Khan (2011), “the most common reasons of conflicts within organizations are lack of communication, misperception, difference in opinions, and discrimination” (p.1). It is not possible to avoid disagreements in most organizations since interests and goals of different stakeholders overlap. Government organizations are made up of different groups of people. Additionally, these people are from varying cultural backgrounds and interest groups. In most governments, people fight for identity or maintenance of status quo. These incidents attract conflicts. When different interests are pulling apart, an organization cannot develop. For that reason, it is prudent for a government organization to device excellent mechanisms to curb conflicts.

Conflict Resolution in Government Institutions

Running a limited government is one of the methods used to guarantee equal participation in governance (Dorn, 2012). A limited government allows all interest groups to have a say in important policy matters. As a result, conflicts are kept at a minimum. For instance, the US constitution limits executive powers through delegation. Delegation brings about separation and devolution of powers. According to Dorn (2012), the three arms of government result from separation of powers. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary have specific duties and responsibilities. Conflicts are, therefore, unlikely to arise among these arms since most of their roles do not overlap. In order to give the electorate and the elected leaders more powers in decision-making, power is decentralized to the states and local governments in a federal government arrangement. In a federal government, the central government devolves some of its powers to states and local governments. This approach allows states and local governments to exercise political and administrative powers. Most policies cannot be implemented without the three levels of government coming into an agreement. Devolved units are, hence, a sure way of preventing conflicts in a government.

Cultural dimensions of most governments are changing rapidly. For instance, in the US, 25% of the total population is of Hispanic origin (Williams, 1994). Williams (1994) adds that culture is a set of ideals, attitudes and routines that define a particular group of people. Culture, thus, refers to the norms learned from people’s values, attitudes and believes. Without culture, it would be very difficult to identify a particular group of people. A person is shaped by norms and values that forms part of his culture (Williams, 1994).Cultural conflicts are caused by failure to acknowledge differences in people’s behaviors. People interpret others behaviors from a different standpoint. In addition, some cultures are perceived to be inferior to others. For example, in the US, the dominant Anglo culture is often accused of failing to recognize the importance of other cultures. This leads to cultural profiling and discrimination. Accordingly, a misunderstanding is created and conflicts arise. Solving these conflicts starts by acknowledging that certain conflicts have cultural dimensions (Williams, 1994). Secondly, all parties involved must try to learn about each other’s culture. All cultures contain unique features that are worth emulating. Moreover, learning about other cultures enables one to appreciate them and understand why people behave and do things in a particular way (Williams, 1994). If this is done to perfection, incidents that lead to cultural conflicts are alleviated and sometimes eradicated. Lastly, government practices, structures and procedures must be restructured to accommodate different cultural norms. In view of that, all interest and ethnic groups must be represented at all levels of a government. Maintaining harmony among different cultures is crucial in sustaining healthy relations in a government institution.

Resolving conflicts in governments entails joint efforts. Solutions must also be reached in a manner that avoids strict or costly processes. Therefore, some conflicts within a government require the services of a mediator. Industrial actions such as strikes by government workers or acrimonies among the arms of government are some of the disagreements settled by mediators. These disputes require different strategies as it is difficult for parties involved to shed grounds in the absence of an arbitrator. A prime example is the ongoing standoff between president Obama and the senate that has led to the shutdown of the US government. An appropriate mediator guarantees a quick consensus between the government and the aggrieved party. In some governments, there are bodies mandated with conflict resolution. For instance, in the US, all matters related to solving disputes are left to bodies such as US Agency for International Development’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (USAID/CMM) (Beller, Klein & Fisher, 2010). Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) is an example of a private body. Apart from acting as mediators, these institutions design strategies for resolving conflicts within the government.


Consensus building and negotiation are widely used to solve conflicts in policy matters (Beller, Klein & Fisher, 2010). Similarly, businesses, government and other institutions negotiate and make decisions using cooperative approaches. This undertaking may be by choice or out of the need to resolve a disagreement. Nonetheless, they greatly contribute to harmonious relationships in workplaces and government institutions. An impartial facilitator solves conflicts quickly and efficiently as he is able to drive the process in a way that meets the needs of all parties. A mediator is also able to use collaborative efforts to resolve disputes. The end results of a conflict resolution process can be negative or positive depending on the parties involved. Some groups of people are difficult to assimilate than others. Nonetheless, all interest groups must be considered in the undertakings of government institutions. To avoid conflicts, government and government institutions must develop systems that are inclusive and sensitive to people’s way of life. In extreme cases, a government must use affirmative action.


Beller, S., Klein, G., & Fisher, R. (2010).US government innovation in peace building and conflict resolution: Implication for IPCR program. Web.

Dorn, J.A. (2012). The scope of government in a free society. Cato Journal, 32 (3), 629-642.

Nouman, M., Khan, I., & Khan, F. (2011). Conflicts and strategies for their resolution: A case of organizations operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 3 (5), 618-632.

Williams, A. (1994). Resolving conflict in a multicultural environment. MCS Conciliation Quarterly, 2-6. Web.

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