Pondy's Model of Organizational Conflict

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Mohammad Hamdan
Russian Federation

Pondy's Model of Organizational Conflict

Organizational conflict is the conflict that occurs between the goals of two different groups while working within the organization, so the behaviors of any group toward its goal obstructs and thwarts the goals of the other. Although the word conflict within the organization has a negative impact when hearing it, good conflict management leads to improving the effectiveness of the organization. So the conflict within an organization is considered as a double-edged sword, either it leads to constructive and valuable changes in the interest of the organization, or it leads to devastating consequences. From here comes the importance of knowing the stages of the conflict developing, so that the managers can draw an effective strategic plan for managing it in a manner that reflects positively on the organization.

One of the most important models describing the chain of conflict evolution within an organization is Pondy's conflict episode model. What are the stages of this model?

Stages of Pondy's conflict model.

According to Pondy, organizational conflict develops through five basic stages: (figure 1).
  2. At this stage, there is no direct conflict, but there is a possibility of conflict due to a set of latent factors, the most important of which are:
    1. Competition for scarce resources: Competition among participants within an organization over available resources is the basis for conflict when their demands exceed available resources.
    2. Independence: The desire for independence and autonomy form the basis of conflict between participants when one of them tries to control the others.
    3. Subunit objectives variation: When two or more parties within the organization must cooperate with each other, and they cannot achieve consensus among themselves, conflict arises as a result of the difference in set aspirations and goals, besides how to achieve them.
  4. This stage includes a cognitive orientation in the context of the evolution of the conflict. Here, the participants realize the conflict situation itself. At this stage, the conflict is in one of two forms:
    1. The conflict exists without the conditions of the latent conflict: In this case, the conflict is a result of the parties'misunderstanding of each other's true position, which can be resolved through improving communication between them.
    2. The conflict is the result of an latent conflict: In this case, the parties are not aware of the conflict's existence, i.e. the latent conflict fails to reach their level of awareness. That poses a strong threat to the organization's activity, because it is linked to the central value of the participants' personality.A situation like this is managed by following the mechanism of suppression, or the mechanism of concentration of attention.
  6. In this stage, the parties feel the conflict, which differs from the awareness of the conflict in the previous stage. Because this means that the conflict is influencing the emotion of the parties, which is reflected through the expression of anger and tension, and the conflict takes a personal character among the participants. As a result, cooperation among the participants decreases, and what began as a small problem escalates into a massive conflict.
  8. Here the conflict takes a form of a conflictual behavior. It materializes through physical and verbal violence, something that is strictly prohibited by the rules within the organization.Therefore, and in order for the participants to avoid the negative effects of such behavior on them personally, the features of the conflict appear at this stage through certain tactics such as indifference, strict adherence to the rules that govern the organization.And to be a conflictual behavior, one participant should be engaged knowingly to frustrate or block other's goals; and such behavior must be perceived by both disputants as conflicted.
  10. This stage expresses the effects that result from the conflict. Each of the previous episodes constitutes one of the chain of conflict between the participants in the organization.If it is resolved early in a way that satisfies all parties, this will be a basis for cooperation relations between the participants in the future, and will allow the conflict in its latent stage to be discovered and dealt with before its development.But if the conflict is suppressed without resolving it, this will be the basis for conflicts exploding in a more dangerous way for the organization.This legacy from the conflict circle is called "conflict aftermath".
According to the Pondy's model, it is not necessary for every conflict to pass through all the phases described, but the evolution of the conflict can be avoided through its stages by controlling it in advance.

⇨ Please share any additional information about conflict stages within an organization that you have. Thank you.

Louis R. Pondy (1967), "Organizational Conflict: Concepts and Models", Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2 (Sep., 1967), pp. 296-320.
Hu Hao (2000), "Understand Conflict Development Process", MSc Minor Thesis, Wageningen University, p. 60.

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