Economics and Management Notes > Oxford University Economics and Management Notes > Organisational Behaviour Notes
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Pip Reeve 18/5/10 TT 10 W4 'Since the material interests of groups within an organisation will always differ, the deployment of power and the existence of conflict are a natural and inevitable part of organisational life.' Discuss. In an organisation, 'ways must be found to create order and direction among people with potentially diverse and conflicting interests' 1 One way of achieving this is through power, 'Power refers to a capacity that A has to influence the behaviour of B so that B acts in accordance with A's wishes' 2 It should be noted that in this definition power is seen as potential and need not be actualised, there is also a dependency relationship. In this essay, I will begin by briefly discussing the difference between having power as a group and having power as an individual. I will then suggest some situations where power is used, or where conflict exists within an organisation. I also disagree with the statement that the material interests of groups within an organisation will always differ, although this is true in the majority of cases. Even in the cases where the interests of groups do differ, there are reasons why conflict or power might not be used. Power can be held either in the hands of groups or individuals, 'power is not a characteristic of an individual but is a property of relationships between people.' 3 Fiol, O'Connor and Aguinis suggest that one can have downward power transfers, whereby a less powerful member gains power by joining a more powerful group, or upward power transfers whereby 'relatively more powerful individuals more to a less powerful group.' 4 As suggested in 'All for one and one for all?', 'power at the group level can influence the power of individual members.'5 'Groups' could include departments within an organisation, a floor in an office building, a coalition, or any other group with a common goal. Coalitions arise when individuals get together to cooperate in relation to specific issues, 'as part of a collectivity they have considerable potential power.' 6 Usually, there is a dominant coalition, often built around the CEO or major players in an organisation. Coalitions are an important source of power, 'organisation members often give considerable attention to increasing their power and influence through these means.' 7 People will usually try to get their power individually first, so they do not have to share, but if this is ineffective they will form a coalition which is 'able to form swiftly, achieve their target issue, and quickly disappear.' From this point on, I will focus on the 'material interests of groups' as opposed to individuals. However, if there are conflicting interests within groups in an organisation, the deployment of power or the existence of conflict is quite likely, although there are circumstances when I believe that this will not occur, which I will discuss later. There are many reasons why conflict might arise within an organisation, for example, 'Organisations have parochial interests and compete for scarce resources.' 8 As I will show below, scarce resources can lead to conflict between groups, and 'resources also symbolise power and influence within an organisation.'9 Other potential sources of intergroup conflict include; 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
'Images of Organisation' by G Morgan pg 142 'Organisational Behaviour' by Robbins & Judge Ch 14. 'Analysing Organisations' Dawson 1992 'All for one and one for all? Fiol, O'Connor & Aguinis 2001 'All for one and one for all? Fiol, O'Connor & Aguinis 2001 'Analysing Organisations' Dawson 1992 'Images of Organisation' by G Morgan pg 155 'Reframing Organisations' Bolman & Deal 1997 'Organisation Theory and Design' Daft 1998
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