Conflict and Power
Conflict is referred as discrepancies between two or more parties. This is caused by actual or perceived opposition of needs interest and values between people or parties. Conflict has been depicted to have negative consequences to an organization or to a team working together to achieve a common goal. Some of the adverse effects of conflicts include delay in decision-making, poor resolutions and wastage of resources among others. There is a strong link between conflict and power. Power is considered as the ability of a person or a party to influence or control others. Power depends on the resources that an individual can employ to influence others in attaining its goals. Conflict usually occurs when there is an imbalance of power, and each party tries to influence the other. The imbalance of power also poses a serious threat to conflict resolution. When one party exerts more influence than the other does since he or she have greater power that the other, chances of reaching into a mutual agreement are low. On the other hand, power is used as one way of conflict resolution. Studies have shown that conflict can be resolved when the negative effect of imbalances in power is reduced, and emphasis should be put on shared power. Folger, Scott and Stutman identifies three means of fostering shared power that include identifying and emphasizing common goals, distribution of resources equally and recognizing that group members are the source of power, and they participate in the negotiation and renewal of power.
What problems can you see resulting from efforts to implement the suggestions?
To implement the concept of shared power using the three suggestions is usually faced by various challenges. One of the biggest challenges is failure to attain a common goal. It has been noted that when team member work towards achieving a common goal there are fewer conflicts. However, among a group or team there are usually differences over how a project should be accomplished, what resources will be used, how the responsibility will be shared and the tome to be spent on the project among other issues. Failure to agree on these things contributes to a major conflict since each party member feel disconnected from the other.
The other problem that arises when fostering shared power is the willingness of group or team members to distribute resources equally to all members. Studies have noted that in order to minimize power imbalances in a group each member should have equal power resources. Group members usually have different level of knowledge and power resources when working on a given project. Balancing these resources among all team members has been always a challenge. For example, in an organization, new members will have less knowledge about the organization and hence they will be less influential in decision-making. However, if this new member can be given access to the relevant information about the organization they can equally have the same power as other in decision-making. Nevertheless, this is not usually the case despite every effort to keep all members of the organization informed through work training, orientation programs and written histories. Old members in an organization will have a high level of experience in dealing with issues in the organization than new members and hence they will have higher influential power in decision-making. Hence, the difference in power resources remain a problem towered conflict resolution.
The other problem arises when team members fail to recognize that group members are the source of power. Negotiation within a group creates a new source of power as each member develops his or her idea, which can be used to make an informed decision. However, in a group some members are deprived the right to contribute their ideas by those who poses high power resources. This result into many conflicts minimizes chances of developing shared power within a group.
How difficult do you think such problems might be to overcome?
To overcome problems of fostering shared power within a group or team is a difficult task. First, to ensure that all parties within the group have a common goal requires a lot of effort and negotiations. The difficult in addressing the problem arises since each party has different has a different objective toward a given project or task. A broad discussion is needed to convince each team member to work toward achieving a common objective. Some individuals are likely to develop high resistance if their ideas are not followed. Second, it is also difficult to ensure that all team members have equal accessibility to resources. As depicted, information and knowledge is the major source of power in an organization, and different individuals have different level of information and knowledge. Organizations have been trying to ensure accessibility of information through employee training, workshops and seminars, orientation programs and written histories. However, some individuals have more skills than others do and therefore they will have more power in decision-making.
Lastly, studies have shown that it is difficult for the group to recognize that its members are the source of power. Some group members usually feel that they have more power over the others and therefore they want to serve as leaders of the group. To overcome these problems, several organizations have been exercising rotational leadership, setting evaluation period for members to discuss the power related problems and emphasizing on non-directive leadership style. These strategies have been effective in some ways by making leaders aware of their group and their responsibility to team members, enabling discussion on an equal basis and reducing the prominence of any particular individual. However, this has been a difficult task since some members have less power, and they have to follow the decision of others.
Occasion Where Open Discussions ,Engaging on Consciousness-Raising, Participation in Support Groups, and the Formation of Coalitions Might to Prove to be Ineffective in Solving Power Related Conflict
At some instances, reducing differences in power of the parties is impossible. Folger, Poole, and Stutman suggest that open discussions regardless of the power a party should be encouraged to resolve conflicts. They also suggest that engaging in consciousness-raising, participation in support groups, and the formation of coalitions as ways of minimizing the impact of more powerful parties. Discussion helps team members to find ways of dealing with problems that arise due to the wrong use of power. It also helps the team to learn that certain resources will change conflict interactions and alert them of the expected result. Additionally increasing people’s awareness of their role in a team also helps in reducing power related conflicts. Individuals in a group usually help each other to understand theory problem and find ways to resolve their conflicts internally. Weak members also gain support, and they are able to question their leaders who are perceived to have great power over others.
However, these approaches have been depicted to be ineffective on various occasions. For example, in a group with an authoritarian leader it is difficult to foster open discussion or honor member’s participation in decision-making. The leader might become oppressive to members when they try to impose discussions and in return members, members might become fed up with the leader and they join hand to rebel. This creates an unstable condition in the organization since the other party will try to strike back. Another occasion that the two approaches cannot be effective is when looking for short terms solution to the problem. Discussion usually takes a long time for members to reach a consensus and therefore they cannot be effective when a short-term solution is necessary. Parties have to use a unique source of power to solve the current conflict before they can find long-term strategies.
Power plays a significant role in conflict resolution. Overcoming conflict in a group is based on the ability and willingness of an individual or party to use power. Power helps individual to influence a decision based on resources that these individual have. To effectively resolve or control conflict in a group or an organization-shared power should be encouraged to reduce power imbalances. Shared power is fostered by ensuring all parties have common goals, they have equal power resources and realize that the group is a source of power. However, it have been noted that there are problems in ensuring shared power. Proper strategies should be laid down to overcome these challenges by encouraging discussions, engaging in consciousness-raising, participation in support groups, and the formation of coalitions.
Folger, J. P., & Scott, M. Stutman, K. (n.d) Working Through Conflict: Strategies for
Relationships, Groups, and Organizations.