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Conflict and Power Struggle in the Workplace

FAQ in Power Struggle
Studying Conflict
Preventing Conflicts
Power Struggle
Power Struggle in Relationships
FAQ in Power Struggle
Beautiful Us

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Power is a word. We need to understand it better.

Power is the ability to influence people. When used properly, it can be very powerful. Power is the ability to impose your beliefs and values on others who do not share your beliefs and values.

To have power is essential for leaders. They need the confidence to make tough decisions, as often they are the person making final decisions. For the decision be effective, the authority needs to be shared.

Power is strength. It can be beautiful like a waterfall. To have power is to be in a position of strength and leadership. Power can be a very positive tool, if shared. If used properly, it is needed.

Power means assuming the authority to make decisions for others. Power should be used to empower others. Having power is the ability to make decisions with input from others. With the right people it is good.

Power is the ultimate control. It is somebody with authority. It's the exercising of authority to arrive at a decision. Some with power have the knowledge or feeling that they will have the last word. It is good as long as the right people have the power.

Power is easy to abuse and hard to effectively use. Power carries a lot of responsibility. There is some frustration with power because it's hard to hold people accountable for the abuse of it. Too many people take advantage of it. Some people have a problem with authority figures.

Power is wisdom and respect. When it's used right it has a lot to offer, and when it's abused it can be a detrimental. Power can be given a life force being positive or negative which is accompanied by responsibilities, and life's experiences.

Power should be shared, and not owned. Power is the ability to persuade, empower other individuals, and carries a lot of responsibility.

Power is the ego.

Exploring power and equity

In my past experiences with consensus seeking, it was unusual for a group to be open to exploring power. The word, the concept, the meaning, the experience are viewed so negatively, often with so much fear, that few groups will address it. In the past five years, however, as we have had to confront scarcity, it is becoming more acceptable to acknowledge "power struggles," to confront the issue of power and its uses.

The exploration begins with a panel of individuals who express the strongest energy on power issues. The panel members then served as facilitators of the small groups, allowing each person to express their point of view. The groups then recorded the definitions they heard about power.



People aren't being listened to. There is a lack of participation in planning. Everyone's needs aren't being addressed. People aren't willing to do their jobs. One program is trying to make another program do something (enforcement).

There are differences of opinions. There is evidence of unresolved conflict and disagreement and readily apparent opposing forces. This leads to dysfunctional behavior.

The intensity of discussions and behaviors increase. There is back biting, people leave the room, and co-workers get out of control. Speech gets louder. People are talking about each other; gossiping-some truths and some untruths. People avoid eye contact and don't acknowledge one another. For example, they don't say good morning to each other.

The lack of trust, or no trust. The lack of communication. The picking of fights over trivial things and the passing of the buck, "go ask so and so." People are bypassing the chain of command.

People feel like they are winners or losers. There are closed door meetings, and some Department Management personnel are not participating. People follow their personal agendas, leading to disagreements.

The evidence of power struggles in the environment

Power only becomes an issue when it moves from an influencing behavior to a forceful behavior. This latter behavior is referred to as a "power struggle" between the opposing forces.

Differences exist between all of us. I can use my "personal power" to influence you in seeing things my way. This may not require that you give up your way, just that you will understand my way.

If I cannot get you to see things my way, or if I want you to go my way in spite of your resistance, then I must apply power. This is normally done through "position power." As the parent, the boss, the teacher, I assert my authority and expect you to respond appropriately. If you don't, I will discipline you. If you resist, then we are in a "power struggle."

Power discussions become the focus only if there is a perceived power struggle. This task asks the participants to describe the evidence of a power struggle in their environment. This allows the members to acknowledge the struggle, while defining the behaviors that result from it.

Talking about power, defining it, and how it feels, is somewhat abstract. The evidence of power "struggles" allows the group to acknowledge the emotional energy that exists around this concept in the real world. It allows each person to acknowledge the reality of power struggles in their personal world.



The evidence of a power struggle between resource departments:

Department managers are not participating. There is blaming and passing the buck. Some are seeking and lobbying CBC support.

There are conflicting program objectives, and the duplication of efforts. People are proposing new regulations that affect other programs, without their input. There is the concealing of pertinent information.


The evidence of a power struggle between the youths and adults:

There is anger and rebellion. This is leading to the formation of gangs. There are higher criminal rates, higher child abuse rates, and family relations are deteriorating. Students have poor grades.

There is a lack of patience, and distrst. There is increased depression, apathy, and suspicion. We have silence with no communication, or nonverbal communication. Parents go through not being very productive at work.

The evidence of a power struggle in the council:

They all think they're right. There are lots of differences in the votes for or against. Sometimes, they get up and leave the council chambers.

We find the inability to reach sound, consistent decisions. Council members don't ever want to speak up. We mainly hear about things at the office.

The evidence of power struggle between department heads:

The executive board currently does not have a defined role. The Executive Board is struggling over budget needs for their respective programs. They tend to show stubbornness.

There is a lack of communication. One department is saying they are better than another. There is a lack of coordinated activities, and duplicated services. A lot of them are not showing up for meetings, and using avoidance.

The evidence of power struggles between groups in our environment

Power struggles do not just exist in general in the environment, they occur between specific groups. During previous discussions, in earlier sessions, the participants disclosed struggles that are evident with the youth and adults, between Resource Departments, and within the Tribal Council.

In this next activity, the small groups explored the evidence that power struggles existed between these groups. This activity allows each group to focus on a specific group. This is one of the values of having small groups; each group can focus on a different arena of concern. It multiplies the value of the groups threefold, in this instance.


Between resource departments:

The resources will continue to deteriorate, and services to the membership will suffer. Projects halt, income drops, and people are laid off. This will mean disaster to the land base and people utilizing the reservation.

Due to conflicting regulations, the IRMP/HRM process fails. The natural resources departments will fold and the individual departments will do business like they've done in the past.

There will be more rehabilitation, less management. We may see the hiring of additional staff when it is not necessary.

Between youth and adults:

With no respect for each other, people will live in fear with the increase of gangs. Crimes will become worse, and will escalate to even worse crime. Each side will feel so powerless, they will resort to killing.

The worst possible outcomes if the struggle is not resolved

The small groups explored the worst possible outcomes if the power struggle is not resolved. Since each group (Department Heads, Youth, Adults, Council, those in power) has a different worst outcome focus, their communication is often incompatible and discordant.

Their worst outcomes affect the beliefs, strategies, and behaviors of the groups. They affect relationships so that information exchange is severely hindered. This actually may foster the worst outcomes of an issue.

These worst outcomes are possible. They are probably present, at some level, in the environment. They create the reactive force that develops the actions, strategies, and behaviors of the participants. They often describe the existing situation from the parties' viewpoints.

Families become more dysfunctional. Our children have children, and dysfunctional becomes inherent. Children will become a burden. There will be an increase in high school dropout rates, leading to homelessness. This will lead to more alcohol and drugs.

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Organizational Behavior