Ch.13 - Conflict, Power, and Politics

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3 Apr 2012

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Chapter 13: Conflict, Power and Politics
Intergroup Conflict in Organizations
- Three ingredients for intergroup conflict: group identification, observable group
differences and frustration (or anticipated frustration)
oFrustration: if one group achieves its goal, another will not
- Intergroup conflict: behaviour that occurs among organizational groups when
participants identify with one group and perceive that other groups may block
their group‘s goal achievement or expectations
- Competition: rivalry among groups in the pursuit of a common price (vs.
conflict has a direct interference with goal achievement)
- Sources of Conflict
oSources of intergroup conflict are:
1. Goal Incompatibility
Greatest cause of conflict and largest between marketing and
Breadth of product line: variety vs. uneconomical runs
New product introduction: new products vs. unnecessary
Product scheduling: faster response vs. realistic
Physical distribution: lack of inventory vs. cost of huge
Quality: low cost, high quality vs. expensive options, little
2. Differentiation
The differences in cognitive and emotional orientations among
managers in different functional departments
Departments have different values, attitudes and standards of
behaviour which can lead to conflict (can be magnified with lack
of trust)
3. Task interdependence
Dependence of one unit on another for materials, resources and
Pooled interdependence: little interaction
Sequential interdependence: output of one goes into the next
Reciprocal interdependence: departments mutually exchange
materials and information
The more interdependence the more potential for conflict as
departments may exert pressure for faster responses
4. Limited resources
Competition for perceived limited resources (money, facilities,
Inflated budgets, working behind the scenes can obtain resources
Resources can symbolize power and influence as well as prestige,
and as departments feel they have a legitimate claim on
resources, conflict arises
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Chapter 13: Conflict, Power and Politics
- Rational vs. Political Model
oDegree of goal incompatibility, differentiation, interdependence and
conflict over limited resources determines whether a rational pr political
model of behaviour is used
oRational Model vs. Political Model
Goals; consistent vs. inconsistent and pluralistic
Power and Control; centralized vs. decentralized, shifting
Decision Process; orderly, logical vs. disorderly with bargaining
and interplay
Rules and Norms; efficiency vs. free play of market force, conflict
is expected
Information; extensive, systematic vs. ambiguous, withheld
Power and Organizations
- Power: ability of one person or department in an organization to influence
other people to bring about desired outcomes
oPotential to influence others with the goal of attaining desired outcomes
for power holders
- Exists between two or more people and can be vertical or horizontal with the
source coming from an exchange relationship when one position provides
valued resources to others
- Individual vs. Organizational Power
oFive sources of power:
1. Legitimate: authority granted to formal management
2. Reward: ability to give rewards
3. Coercive: ability to install or recommend punishment
4. Expert: person’s greater skill/knowledge about a task being
5. Referent: personal characteristics that make one appealing
oPower in organizations usually come from structural characteristics
Large, complex usually have a formal hierarchy, certain positions
with access to resources making power relationships larger in
larger organizations
- Power vs. Authority
oAuthority: force for achieving desired outcomes but is prescribed by
formal hierarchy and reporting relationships
oThree properties to identify authority:
1. Authority is vested in organizational positions
Authority due to positions not personal characteristics of
2. Authority is accepted by subordinates
Subordinates comply because they see authority as being
3. Authority flows down the vertical hierarchy
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Chapter 13: Conflict, Power and Politics
Authority exists along formal chain of command
- Vertical Sources of Power
oFormal Positions
Also known as legitimate power, comes from the organizations
structural design
Is important as it enables employees to be productive, with
nonroutine job tasks it encourages employees to be flexible
Power increases with contact with high-level people as a
relationship with them gives a strong base for influence
Total power in an organization can increase by designing tasks
and interactions along the hierarchy so everyone can exert more
Distribution of power skewed to o heavily on top can be less
Resources are allocated from top to bottom and are controlled by
upper management in forms of budget, salary, rewards and
punishments as well as dependency
oControl of Decision Premises and Information
Top managers place constraints on decisions made at lower levels
by specifying a decision frame of reference and guidelines
Top managers make big decisions vs. lower-end employees
making smaller ones
Top managers place limits on decisions of lower-level managers
and influence the outcome of their decisions
Control of information is a source of power as control on collected
information, interpreted and how its shared influences how
decisions are made
Top managers usually have access to more information than
other employees but middle managers and lower-level employee
have access to problems and opportunities and can manipulate it
to influence top managers and outcomes
oNetwork Centrality
Being centrally located in the organization and having access to
information and people that are critical to the company’s success
Top executives are more successful when in the center of
communication network, building connections throughout the
More power is given when job is related to current areas of
concern and when the job has pressing problems, power is more
easily accumulated
Increasing network centrality takes place by being knowledgeable
about certain activities or by taking on difficult tasks and
acquiring specialized knowledge making them indispensable as
well as undesirable projects that were taken on beyond their
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