Research

Team Conflict

Pondy’s Five Stages of Conflict

Conflict in small groups can best be understood as a dynamic process and is often studied as being composed of a series of conflict episodes (Pondy, 1967). Greer, Jehn, and Mannix (2008) supported this point by stating that “conflict is dynamic” (p. 278). In addition, Pondy (1967) proposed that “conflict can be more readily understood if it is considered a dynamic process” (p. 299). Conflict episodes can either facilitate or inhibit an organization’s, or a team’s, productivity (Pondy, 1967). Pondy (1967) identified five stages of these conflict episodes:

  1. Latent conflict (conditions)
  2. Perceived conflict (cognition)
  3. Felt conflict (affect)
  4. Manifest conflict (behavior)
  5. Conflict Aftermath (conditions) (p. 300)

Pondy’s (1967) conflict episodes were specifically related to organizational conflict. However, these conflict episodes could very easily be transferred to small groups. Latent conflict (Pondy, 1967), involves competing for scarce resources, the need for autonomy, and differences in set objectives and goals. Perceived conflict often occurs when the modes of conflict are derived from mechanisms other than those from latent conflict. Pondy (1967) provided some examples relating to perceived conflict: (1) misunderstanding of each other’s position, (2) conflict issues that are personally relevant to some group members, as well as (3) differences between group member values and organizational values. Felt conflict refers to what Pondy (1967) identified as “the personalization of conflict” (p. 302). Conflict can be present, as in the examples provided in perceived conflict. However, when conflict reaches the level of provoking anxiety among members, it becomes felt conflict. Manifest conflict refers to the overt behaviors that members act upon as a direct result of the conflict, often in negative manners such as acts of aggression, acts of defiance, and deliberate acts just to frustrate others (Pondy, 1967). Lastly, when the conflict episode is complete and all members have resolved their differences in a professional and productive manner, these members would most likely work with one another on future projects. However, when the episode ends in unresolved issues, these members are less willing to work with one another again in the future. If forced to work together again, any unresolved issues would enter into the new conflict episode. Pondy (1967) referred to this end result in which unresolved issues remain, as conflict aftermath. From this perspective, the aftermath from a preceding conflict episode often becomes the first stage in a new conflict episode (Pondy, 1967).

Intragroup Conflict

Moving forward from Pondy’s (1967) five stages of conflict, the literature on team conflict has developed into a multidimensional team conflict model.  Balkundi, Barsness, and Michael (2009) indicated that team conflict can have multiple effects including distracting team members, undermining relationships, and reducing the team’s ability to function (similar to those effects outlined by Pondy’s conflict episodes). Team conflict is often identified as intragroup conflict in the literature and has been formally defined as: “Perceived incompatibilities or perceptions by the parties involved that they hold discrepant views or have interpersonal incompatibilities (Jehn, 1995, p. 257).

Research on team conflict expanded when Jehn (1995) presented a conflict model which included the two conflict constructs of task conflict and relationship conflict. Jehn (1995) addressed the contradictions found in the literature relating to the effects of conflict in groups. Some studies reported that conflict reduced performance in groups, while others reported that conflict in groups could be productive (Jehn, 1995). Jehn’s research was designed with the purpose of finding situations in which conflict is productive as well as destructive, and identifying the factors leading to each. Intragroup conflict, as Jehn identified in the literature, involved task conflict that relates to group tasks and relationship conflict as it relates to the group’s interpersonal relations. 

Expanding on the team conflict / intragroup conflict literature, researchers (Jehn & Chatman, 2000; Jehn & Mannix, 2001; Jehn & Shah, 1997) added the construct of process conflict. Process conflict is best represented as being related to how well groups manage and coordinate activities (Behfar et al., 2011; Greer et al., 2008). 

With intragroup conflict being composed of three types of conflict, this collection has been identified as being a tripartite (Behfar et al., 2011; Greer et al., 2008; Song et al., 2006). Jehn and Chatman (2000) acknowledged this tripartite by extending process conflict into two sub-categories: proportional conflict composition and perceptual conflict composition. A summary of the definitions for the different types of conflict found in the team conflict / intragroup conflict literature can be found in the following table.

SourceIntragroup Conflict Definitions
Intragroup / General
Bayazit et al. (2003)
Intrateam Conflict from Jehn (1995): perceived incompatibilities or perceptions by the parties involved that they hold discrepant views or have interpersonal incompatibilities.
Erbert et al. (2005)Disagreements, tensions, and problems within the team that include personal attacks, criticisms, schedule conflicts, and so forth.
Task Conflict
Amason (1996); Brehmer (1976); Cosier & Rose (1977); Jehn (1992); Prem & Price (1991); Riecken (1952); Torrance (1957)Cognitive conflict: generally task oriented and focused on judgmental differences about how best to achieve common objectives.
Amason (1997)Cognitive conflict: task-oriented and arises from differences in judgment or perspective.
Balkundi et al. (2009)No definition. Used task conflict scale from Jehn (1995).
Behfar et al. (2011)An awareness of differences in viewpoints and opinions about the group’s tasks.
Curseu (2006); Jehn (1995)Interpersonal incompatibilities and frictions among the group members resulting in tension, annoyance and animosity.
Greer et al. (2008)Conflict over work issues.
Jehn & Chatman (2000)Describes disagreement about the work that is being done in the group.
Jehn & Mannix (2001)An awareness of differences in viewpoints and opinions pertaining to a group task.
LeDoux et al. (2012); Jehn (1994)Occurs when members convey divergent ideas and opinions about specific aspects related to task accomplishment.
Martins et al. (2013)No definition. Used task conflict scale from Jehn & Mannix (2001).
Song et al. (2006); Jehn & Chatman (2000)Disagreement over work issues.
Relationship Conflict
Amason (1996); Brehmer (1976); Cosier & Rose (1977); Jehn (1992); Prem & Price (1991); Riecken (1952); Torrance (1957)
Affective conflict: emotional and focused on personal incompatibilities or disputes.
Amason (1997); Brehmer (1976); Jehn (1994); Pinkley (1990)Affective conflict: emotional and arises from personalized incompatibilities or disputes.
Balkundi et al. (2009)No definition. Used relationship conflict scale from Jehn (1995).
Behfar et al. (2011); Amason & Sapienza (1997); Guetzkow & Gyr (1954); Jehn (1995, 1997); Prem & Price (1991); Wall & Nolan (1986)Interpersonal animosity tension, or annoyance amonge members.
Curseu (2006); Jehn (1995)Disagreements among the team members about the content of the task due to different view points, opinions and ideas.
Greer et al. (2008)Conflict over interpersonal issues.
Jehn & Chatman (2000)Involves disagreements based on personal and social issues that are not related to work.
Jehn & Mannix (2001)An awareness of interpersonal incompatibilities, includes affective components such as feeling tension and friction.
LeDoux et al. (2012); Jehn (1994)Interpersonal incompatibilities between team members such as annoyance and animosity.
Martins et al. (2013)No definition. Used relationship conflict scale from Jehn & Mannix (2001).
Song et al. (2006); Jehn & Chatman (2000)Disagreement over personal or social issues, not work issues.
Process Conflict
Behfar et al. (2011); Jehn (1997)Disagreements about assignments of duties and resources.
Greer et al. (2008)Conflict over logistical issues.
Jehn & Chatman (2000)Centers on task strategy and delegation of duties and resources.
Jehn & Mannix (2001)An awareness of controversies about aspects of how task accomplishment will proceed.
Song et al. (2006); Jehn & Chatman (2000)Disagreements over procedures.

References

Amason, A. C. (1996). Distinguishing the effects of functional and dysfunctional conflict on strategic decision making: Resolving a paradox for top management teams. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 123-148. doi:10.2307/256633

Amason, A. C., & Sapienza, H. J. (1997). The effects of top management team size and interaction norms on cognitive and affective conflict. Journal of Management, 23, 495-516. doi:10.1177/014920639702300401

Balkundi, P., Barsness, Z., & Michael, J. H. (2009). Unlocking the influence of leadership network structures on team conflict and viability. Small Group Research, 40, 301-322. doi:10.1177/1046496409332954

Bayazit, M., & Mannix, E. A. (2003). Should I stay or should I go? Predicting team members’ intent to remain in the team. Small Group Research, 34, 290-321. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496403034003002

Behfar, K. J., Mannix, E. A., Peterson, R. S., & Trochim, W. M. (2011). Conflict in small groups: The meaning and consequences of process conflict. Small Group Research, 42, 127-176. doi:10.1177/1046496410389194

Curseu, P. L. (2006). Emergent states in virtual teams: a complex adaptive systems perspective. Journal of Information Technology, 21, 249-261. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.jit.2000077

Erbert, L. A., Mearns, G. M., Dena, S. (2005). Perceptions of turning points and dialectical interpretations in organizational team development. Small Group Research, 36, 21-58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496404266774

Greer, L. L., Jehn, K. A., & Mannix, E. A. (2008). Conflict transformation: A longitudinal investigation of the relationships between different types of intragroup conflict and the moderating role of conflict resolution. Small Group Research, 39, 278-302. doi:10.1177/1046496408317793

Jehn, K. A. (1995). A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 256-282. Retrieved from asq.sagepub.com

Jehn, K. A., & Chatman, J. A. (2000). The influence of proportional and perceptual conflict composition on team performance. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 56-73. doi:10.1108/eb022835

Jehn, K. A., & Mannix, E. A. (2001). The dynamic nature of conflict: A longitudinal study of intragroup conflict and group performance. Academy of Management Journal, 238-251. doi:10.2307/3069453

Jehn, K. A., & Shah, P. P. (1997). Interpersonal relationships and task performance: An examination of mediating processes in friendship and acquaintence groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 725-790. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.72.4.775

LeDoux, J. A., Gorman, A. C., & Woehr, D. J. (2011). The impact of interpersonal perceptions on team processes: A social relations analysis. Small Group Research, 43, 356-382. https://doi.org/10.1177/1046496411425190

Martins, L. L., Schilpzand, M. C., Kirkman, B. L., Ivanaj, S., & Ivanaj, V. (2013). A contingency view of the effects of cognitive diversity on team performance: The moderating roles of team psychological safety and relationship conflict. Small Group Research, 44, 96-126. doi:10.1177/1046496412466921

Pondy, L. R. (1967). Organizational conflict: Concepts and models. Administrative Science Quarterly, 12, 296-320. doi:10.2307/2391553

Song, M., Dyer, B., & Thieme, J. R. (2006). Conflict management and innovation performance: An integrated contingency perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 34, 341-356. doi:10.1177/0092070306286705

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