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Reframing Organizations , 3 rd ed. 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

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Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Power, Conflict, and Coalitions

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
Power, Conflict, and Coalitions (II)

  • Conflict in organizations

  • Moral mazes: the politics of getting ahead

Assumptions of the political frame
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
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
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
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
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 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
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.


  • 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.