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Conflict, Power, and Politics

MHR 3200 Dr. Larry Inks Department of Management and Human Resources Fisher College of Business The Ohio State University

Conflict in Organizations

Conflict Outcomes and Resolution


Influencing Others

Impression Management

The Nature of Conflict

Conflict The process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party. Dysfunctional conflict - Conflict that is detrimental to organizational goals and objectives Functional conflict - Conflict that is beneficial to organizational goals and objectives

Potential Benefits of Conflict More effective management of change Increased morale and group cohesiveness Better, more candid and spontaneous communication Improved creativity and problem solving

Four Major Categories of Conflict

Personality Conflict Intergroup Conflict Cross-Cultural Conflict

Work-Family Conflict

Behaviors Associated with Intergroup Conflict

Group polarization Increased group cohesiveness Decreased amount/increased negativity of communication Decrease in productivity (individual and organizational)

Increase in finger pointing

Conditional cohesiveness

Relevant to both intergroup and intragroup conflict

Enabling Conditions for Worker/Management Conflict

Large psychological distance between groups

Large power/status difference between groups

Differences in ideology/philosophy about work Scarce financial resources

Lack of trust between groups (especially of management)

Lack of substantive communication/information sharing - Especially if perceived to be deliberate

Historical factors

Conflict Escalation
Conflict escalation: Process whereby a conflict grows increasingly worse over time Escalation of conflict is more likely when: - Cultural differences exist between the parties The parties have a history of antagonism

The parties have insecure self-images

Status differences between parties are uncertain Parties have strong ties to each other

The parties do not identify with one another

One or both parties has the goal of beating the other party

Different Conflict Resolution Strategies






Dominating Low High

Avoiding Low


Forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Facilitation Conciliation Peer Review Ombudsman: public advocate appointed by govt Mediation Arbitration: resolve outside of courts

Distributive vs. Integrative Negotiation

Distributive Negotiation - A fixed pie Integrative Negotiation - Added Value Negotiation one type Several steps in Added Value Negotiation - Clarifying interests - Identifying options - Designing alternative deal packages - Selecting a deal - Finalizing/perfecting the deal


Influencing Others
Potential Outcomes of Influence Attempts Resistance Compliance Commitment/Internalization

Influence/Persuasion Principles Reciprocity

Consistency/Commitment Authority Social Proof (role models, champions, etc.) Liking Scarcity (e.g., of resources, information, etc.)

Some Generic Influence Tactics

Rational persuasion

Personal appeal Ingratiation

Soft tactics

Inspirational appeal
Exchange Coalition Hard tactics



Different Types of Power

Legitimate Power: based on position Expert Power Reward Power: based on perceived ability to reward Coercive Power: based on perceived ability to punish Referent Power: power of an individual over the team or followers


Sharing Power with Others

Potential Benefits Increased motivation, engagement and self-efficacy

Increased productivity and effectiveness

Better efficiency/utilization of time and resources Better decision making Required Elements Information sharing Employee development (to ensure necessary skill levels) Allowing employees to make substantive decisions Rewarding employees based on company performance


Politics in Organizations
Organizational Politics Intentional acts of influence to enhance or protect the self-interest of individuals or groups that are not endorsed by the organization. NOTE: This is the definition from your text; I consider it more broadly. Politics and political behaviors found in virtually all organizations Causes include change, lack of clarity, resource allocation, etc. Goal of political behavior is to exert influence on others Political behavior triggered by many things, especially uncertainty


Some Political Concepts/Issues

Individual- vs. coalition- vs. network-level political action

Frequently used political tactics - Building networks of contacts - Getting key players to support your initiatives - Making friends with power brokers - Bending the rules to fit the situation - Self-promotion - Impression management - Ingratiation - Attacking or blaming others - Using information as a political tool


Effectively Wielding Political Power

Know what youre getting involved with Carefully read the situation Be aware of personal relationships within the organization Build coalitions Expand your organizational network Control decision making process and parameters Be assertive (vs. aggressive) about what you want

Position issues carefully, and appropriately, and properly - Framing - Timing

Always make your own informed decision about your own behavior

Some Caveats
Dont get overly involved in the rumor mill

Be careful about what you say to others

Be careful about what you write to others Consider email and IMs to be more or less permanent

Remember that people have long memories

This is just between you and me is almost NEVER just between you and me. Know what battles to fight and which ones to avoid/concede Dont ignore the political reality around you, but dont let it rule you


Mintzbergs Political Games

Insurgency Game Counter-Insurgency Game Sponsorship Game Alliance-Building/Coalition-Building Game Empire-Building Game Budgeting Game Expertise Game Strategic Candidates Game


Summary Thoughts
Conflict, power and politics are complex topics since they deal with complex situations involving multiple people These issues are part of the culture (like an undercurrent) but are most visible when they surface during critical situations Skills in dealing with these issues develop over time and with practice In addition to skills, you need to have a certain level of credibility, respect, and knowledge within the organizationthese are YOUR responsibility and result from your own behavior Managing conflict, wielding power, and dealing in politics are done best when done with integrity, clarity and objectivity.


What Questions Do You Have?