Personal power. Individuals who are attractive and socially adept—because of charisma,� energy, stamina, political smarts, gift of gab, vision, or other characteristics—are imbued� with power independent of other sources. French and Raven (1959) used the term� referent power to describe in!uence that comes when people like you or want to be like� you. John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan expanded their in!uence because they brought� levels of charm, humor, and ease that Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush lacked.�
A signi”cant form of personal power is skill in the application of in!uence tactics. After reviewing research on persuasion, Cialdini (2008, 2016) developed a list of six techniques that skilled practitioners use to in!uence others, often without the targets realizing how they have been hooked:
1.� Reciprocation: If I do something for you (send you a card, give you a small gift, or make� some effort on your behalf), you’re likely to feel you should do something for me as well.�
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2.� Commitment and consistency: If I can get you to take a small step in my direction (maybe getting you to agree that you see at least some positive features in the product or idea I’m selling), I can leverage your desire to be consistent and to live up to your commitments.
3.� Social proof: If I offer evidence that everyone (at least everyone you like) is doing it, you’re more likely to do it as well. (Bars and cafes often salt the tip jar with cash to cue you that tipping is what people do. Sport and “lm stars might have no more product knowledge than you do, but you may still want the shoes they wear or the cosmetic they use.)
4.� Liking: The more you like me (perhaps because I tell you how much I like you, or how well you’ll do on this task, or how much we have in common), the better the chance you’ll do what I ask.
5.� Authority: If the boss, or someone with a badge or a fancy title, asks you to do it, you probably will.
6.� Scarcity: We put a higher value on something that is scarce or about to become unavailable. (If I can convince you that the price is going up, there are only a few items left, what you want is very rare, or this is your last chance, you’re more likely to buy.)
Partisans’ multiple sources of power are always a constraint on authorities’ capacity to make binding decisions. Of”ceholders who rely solely on position power generate resistance and get out!anked, outmaneuvered, or overrun by others more versatile in exercising multiple forms of power. Kotter (1985) argues that managerial jobs come with a built-in “power gap” because position power is rarely enough to get the job done. Expertise, rewards, coercion, allies, access, reputation, framing, and personal power help close the gap.
Power can be volatile, rising and falling with changes in circumstances. An organization that sets new pro”t records each year is rarely besieged by complaints and demands for change. As many corporate leaders have learned, however, the “rst bad quarter triggers a stream of calls and letters from board members, stockholders, and “nancial analysts. In the boom of the late 1990s, “everyone” was getting rich in the stock market, and charismatic CEOs such as Jack Welch of General Electric and Jean-Marie Messier of France’s Vivendi became popular heroes. But when the economy, the market, and the image of business crashed in the “rst years of the new century, so did these heroic images. In 2002, Welch found himself deeply embarrassed by public revelation of the generous postretirement payouts his old company was bestowing on him. In the same year, Messier was booted out
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by board members dissatis”ed with the company’s stock price and his arrogant “American” leadership style.
Clark Kerr once remarked ruefully that his primary tasks as chancellor of the University of California atBerkeley seemed to beproviding “sex for the students, parking for the faculty, and football for the alumni.” The remark was half-facetious, but it re!ects an important grain of truth: A president’s power lies particularly in zones of indifference—areas only a few people care much about. The zone of indifference can expand or contract markedly, depending on howanorganization is performing in the eyes of itsmajor constituents. In the late 1960s,many college presidents lost their jobs because they were blamed for student unrest. Among them was Kerr, who remarked that he left the job just as he entered it, “”red with enthusiasm.” Managers need to track shifting boundaries of zones of indifference so as not to blunder into decisions that stir up unanticipated “restorms of criticism and resistance.
Distribution of Power: Overbounded and Underbounded Systems Organizations and societies differ markedly in how power is distributed. Alderfer (1979) and Brown (1983) distinguish between overbounded and underbounded systems. In an overbounded system, power is highly concentrated and everything is tightly regulated. In an underbounded system, power is diffuse and the system is very loosely controlled. An overbounded system regulates politics with a “rm hand; an underbounded system encourages con!ict and power games.
If power is highly regulated, political activity is often forced under wraps. Before the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev and glasnost (“openness”) in the 1980s, it was common for Westerners to view the Soviets as a vast, amorphous mass of like-minded people, brainwashed by decades of government propaganda. It was not true, but even so-called experts on Soviet affairs misread the underlying reality (Alterman, 1989). Ethnic, political, philosophical, and religious differences simmered quietly underground so long as the Kremlin maintained a tightly regulated society. Glasnost took the lid off, leading to an outpouring of debate and dissent that rapidly caused the collapse of the old order in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe. Almost overnight, much of Eastern Europe went from overbounded to underbounded. Most nations in Eastern Europe have since evolved into stable democracies, but many other countries have been less fortunate.
The war in Iraq, beginning in 2003, brought down the overbounded Saddam Hussein regime and created a power vacuum that attracted a host of contenders vying for supremacy. By 2006, Iraq had the formal elements of a new government, including a constitution and an elected parliament, but Iraq has struggled ever since to bring con!ict and chaos under control. The Arab Spring, which began with unrest in Tunisia in 2010, brought unrest and
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revolt to many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen. Fear of a similar fate drives the leaders of China’s ruling Communist party to mount an ongoing, massive effort to stem the tides of criticism and dissent welling up from China’s more than 700 million Internet users.
CONFLICT IN ORGANIZATIONS The political frame stresses that the combination of scarce resources and divergent interests produces con!ict as surely as night follows day. Con!ict is not something that can or should be stamped out. Other frames view con!ict differently. The structural frame, in particular, views con!ict as an impediment to effectiveness. Hierarchical con!ict raises the possibility that lower levels will ignore or subvert management directives. Con!ict among major partisan groups can undermine leadership’s ability to function. Such dangers are precisely why the structural perspective “nds virtue in a well-de”ned, authoritative chain of command, and why those in authority so often work to keep con!ict under control.
From a political perspective, con!ict is not necessarily a problem or a sign that something is amiss. Organizational resources are in short supply; there is rarely enough to give everyone everything they want. Individuals compete for jobs, titles, and prestige. Departments compete for resources and power. Interest groups vie for policy concessions. If one group controls the policy process, others may be frozen out. Con!ict is normal and inevitable. It’s a natural byproduct of collective life.
The political prism puts more emphasis on strategy and tactics than on resolution of con!ict. Con!ict has bene”ts as well as costs: “a tranquil, harmonious organization may very well be an apathetic, uncreative, stagnant, in!exible, and unresponsive organization. Con!ict challenges the status quo [and] stimulates interest and curiosity. It is the root of personal and social change, creativity, and innovation. Con!ict encourages new ideas and approaches to problems, stimulating innovation” (Heffron, 1989, p. 185).
An organization can experience too much or too little con!ict (Brown, 1983; Heffron, 1989; Jehn, 1995). Leaders may need to tamp down or stoke up the intensity, depending on the situation (Heifetz and Linsky, 2002). More important than the amount of con!ict is how it is managed. Poorly managed con!ict leads to in”ghting and destructive power struggles like those in the Challenger and Columbia cases. Well-handled con!ict, on the other hand, can stimulate creativity and innovation that make an organization a livelier, more adaptive, and more effective place (Kotter, 1985).
Con!ict is particularly likely to occur at boundaries, or interfaces, between groups and units. Horizontal con!ict occurs in the boundary between departments or divisions; vertical
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con!ict occurs at the border between levels. Cultural con!ict crops up between groups with differing values, traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles. Cultural quarrels in the larger society often seep into the workplace, generating tension around gender, ethnic, racial, and other differences.
But organizations also house their own value disputes. The world of management is different from that of frontline employees. Workers who move up the ladder sometimes struggle with elusive adjustments required by their new role. A classic article described foremen as both “master and victim of doubletalk” (Roethlisberger, 1945) because of the pressures they felt from above to side with management, and from below to think and talk like a worker.
The management challenge is to recognize and manage interface con!ict. Like other forms, it can be productive or debilitating. One of themost important tasks of unit managers or union representatives is to be a persuasive advocate for their group on a political “eld with many players representing competing interests. They need negotiation skills to develop alliances and cement deals that enable their group to move forward “without physical or psychological bloodshed and with wisdom as well as grace” (Peck, 1998, p. 71).
MORAL MAZES: THE POLITICS OF GETTING AHEAD Does a world of power, self-interest, con!ict, and political games inevitably develop into a dog-eat-dog jungle in which the strong devour the weak and sel”shness trumps everything else? Is an unregulated organization invariably a nasty, brutish place where values and ethics are irrelevant? The corporate ethics scandals of recent years reinforced a recurrent suspicion that the morals of the marketplace amount to no morals at all.
Jackall (1988) views the corporation as a world of cabals and alliances, dominance and submission, con!ict and self-interest, and “moral mazes.” He suggests that “wise and ambitious managers resist the lulling platitudes of unity, though they invoke them with fervor, and look for the inevitable clash of interests beneath the bouncy, cheerful surface of corporate life” (p. 37). Moving up the ladder inevitably involves competition for the scarce resource of status. The favored myth is that free and fair competition ensures that, at least in the long run, better performers win.