Chapter 9 Power, Conflict, and Coalitions
Power, Conflict, and Coalitions • Assumptions of the political frame • Organizations as coalitions • Power and decision making • Authorities and partisans • Sources of power • Distribution of power: overbounded and underbounded systems
Power, Conflict, and Coalitions (II) • Conflict in organizations • Moral mazes: the politics of getting ahead
Assumptions of the Political Frame • Organizations are coalitions. • Enduring differences exist among coalition members. • Most important decisions involve allocation of scarce resources. • Conflict is the central process and power the most important resource. • Goals and decisions arise from bargaining, negotiation, and jockeying for position.
Organizations as Coalitions • Coalitions rather than pyramids • Organizational goals are multiple and sometimes conflicting because they reflect bargaining involving multiple players with divergent interests.
Power and Decision Making • Gamson: authorities and partisans • Authorities make binding decisions. • Partisans are subject to authorities’ decisions; they will support or question authority depending on how decisions affect their interests.
Sources of Power • Position power • Information and expertise • Control and rewards • Coercive power • Alliances and networks • Framing: control of meaning and symbols • Personal power
Distribution of Power: Overbounded and Underbounded Systems • Overbounded: strong, top-down control, conflict is tightly regulated (e.g., Iraq under Saddam Hussein) • Underbounded: weak authority, chaotic decision making, open conflict and power struggles (Iraq after collapse of old regime)
Conflict in Organizations • Conflict is natural and inevitable; organizations can have too much or too little. • The political frame focuses on strategy and tactics for dealing with conflict. • Forms of organizational conflict • Hierarchical • Horizontal • Cultural
Moral Mazes: The Politics of Getting Ahead • Getting ahead is a political process involving conflict for scarce resources. • Assessment of individual performance often depends on subjective judgments. • Does advancement depend on doing good work or doing what is politically correct? • Organizations can’t eliminate politics, but they can influence the kind of politics they have.
Conclusion • The world as seen through the political frame is very different from the traditional view of organizations. • Traditional: organizations are hierarchies, run by legitimate authorities who set goals and manage performance. • Political view: organizations are coalitions whose goals are determined by bargaining among multiple contenders. • Politics can be nasty and brutish, but constructive politics is possible and necessary for organizations to be effective.