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Managing Conflict, Power, and Politics

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1 Managing Conflict, Power, and Politics
Organizational Theory, Design, and Change Fifth Edition Gareth R. Jones Chapter 14 Managing Conflict, Power, and Politics Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

2 Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall
Learning Objectives Describe the nature of organizational conflict, its sources, and the way it arises between stakeholders and subunits Identify the mechanisms by which managers and stakeholders can obtain power and use that power to influence decision making and resolve conflict in their favor Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

3 Learning Objectives (cont.)
Explain how and why individuals and subunits engage in organizational politics to enhance their control over decision making and obtain the power that allows them to influence the change process in their favor Appreciate the importance of managing an organization’s power structure to overcome organizational inertia, and to bring about the type of changing that promotes performance Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

4 What is Organizational Conflict?
The clash that occurs when the goal-directed behavior of one group blocks or thwarts the goals of another Although conflict is often perceived as something negative, research suggests that some conflict can actually improve organizational effectiveness Can overcome inertia and lead to learning and change Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

5 Figure 14-1: Cooperation and Competition Among Stakeholders
Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

6 What is Organizational Conflict?
Beyond a certain point, conflict becomes a cause for organizational decline Conflict leads to inability to reach consensus and indecision Too much time spent on bargaining rather than acting swiftly to resolve problems On balance, organizations should be open to conflict and recognize its value Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

7 Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall
Figure 14-2: Relationship Between Conflict and Organizational Effectiveness Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

8 Pondy’s Model of Organizational Conflict
Conflict is a process that consists of five sequential stages Stage 1: Latent conflict: no outright conflict exists, but there is a potential for conflict because of several latent factors Sources of conflict include: Interdependence Difference in goals and priorities Bureaucratic factors Incompatible performance criteria Competition for scarce resources Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

9 Pondy’s Model of Organizational Conflict (cont.)
Stage 2: Perceived conflict: subunits become aware of conflict and begin to analyze it Conflict escalates as groups battle over the cause of conflict Stage 3: Felt conflict: subunits respond emotionally to each other, and attitudes polarize into “us-versus-them” Cooperation between units decreases What began as a small problem escalates into huge conflict Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

10 Pondy’s Model of Organizational Conflict (cont.)
Stage 4: Manifest conflict: subunits try to get back at each other Fighting and open aggression Passive aggression – doing nothing Organizational effectiveness suffers Stage 5: Conflict aftermath: conflict is resolved in some way If sources of conflict are not resolved, the dispute will arise again Conflict aftermath Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

11 Figure 14-3: Pondy’s Model of Organizational Conflict
Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

12 Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall
Managing Conflict Organizational conflict can escalate rapidly and sour an organization’s culture Managing conflict is an important priority Organizations must balance the need to have some “good” conflict without letting it escalate into “bad” conflict Choice of conflict resolution method depends on the source of the problem Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

13 Managing Conflict: Resolution Strategies
Acting at the level of structure Because task interdependence and differences in goals produce conflict, alter the level of differentiation and integration to change relationships Increase the number of integrating roles Assign top managers to solve conflict Rethink the hierarchy/reporting chain Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

14 Managing Conflict: Resolution Strategies (cont.)
Acting at the level of attitudes and individuals Establish a procedural system that allows parties to air their grievances Important for conflict between management and unions Use a third-party negotiator Exchange/rotate/terminate individuals CEOs can also use their power to resolve conflicts and motivate units to cooperate Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

15 What is Organizational Power?
Organizational power: the ability of one person or group to overcome resistance by others to achieve a desired objective or result Conflict and power are intimately related Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

16 Figure 14-4: Sources of Organizational Power
Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

17 Sources of Organizational Power
Authority: power that is legitimized by the legal and cultural foundations on which an organization is based Empowerment: the deliberate decentralization of authority Control over resources: as the organization controls more and more resources in its environment, power within an organization comes from the control of resources Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

18 Sources of Organizational Power (cont.)
Control over information: access to strategic information and the control of the information are sources of considerable power Nonsubstitutability: if no one else can perform the tasks that a person or subunit performs, that person or subunit is nonsubstitutable Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

19 Sources of Organizational Power (cont.)
Centrality: the subunits that are most central to resource flows have the ability to reduce the uncertainty facing other subunits Control over uncertainty: a subunit that can actually control the principal sources of uncertainty has significant power Changes in contingencies facing the organization alter which subunits have this power Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

20 Sources of Organizational Power
Unobtrusive power: controlling the premises of decision making Unobtrusive power: the power flowing from the ability to control the premises behind decision making The power of a coalition resides in its ability to control the assumptions, goals, norms, or values that managers use to judge alternative solutions to a problem Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

21 Using Power: Organizational Politics
Organizational politics: activities taken within organizations to acquire, develop, and use power and other resources to obtain one’s preferred outcomes in a situation in which there is uncertainty or disagreement about choices Tactics for playing politics Increasing indispensability: become indispensable to the organization Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

22 Using Power: Organizational Politics (cont.)
Tactics for playing politics (cont.) Increasing nonsubstitutability: develop specialized skills or knowledge that enables one to control a crucial contingency facing the organization Increasing centrality: accept responsibilities that enhance one’s reputation or that of one’s function Associating with powerful managers: supporting a powerful manager who is clearly on the way to the top Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

23 Using Power: Organizational Politics (cont.)
Tactics for playing politics (cont.) Building and managing coalitions Forming relationships with stakeholders and other subunits around some common issue Skills in coalition building are important Influencing decision making Must be circumspect in the use of power Controlling the agenda By setting the agenda, managers can control the issues and problems to be considered Bringing in an outside expert Use supposedly neutral outsiders to support the views of the coalitions Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

24 Using Power: Organizational Politics (cont.)
Costs and benefits of organizational politics To manage organizational politics and gain its benefits, an organization must establish a balance of power in which alternative views and solutions can be offered and considered by all parties and dissenting views can be heard Balance of power should shift over time toward the party that can best manage the uncertainty and contingencies confronting the organization Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

25 Using Power: Organizational Politics (cont.)
Costs and benefits of organizational politics (cont.) If balance of power does not encourage allocation of resources to where value is created, the organization suffers If powerful managers can suppress views against their interests, debates become restricted, checks and balances fade, bad conflict increases, and organizational inertia increases Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

26 Figure 14-5: Maintaining a Balance of Power
Copyright 2007 Prentice Hall

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