Determinants of Effective Conflict Resolution: Total Level of Influence

The first of these factors is the amount of influence managers in all the departments felt that they had over decisions.

If the various functional specialists and the integrators all felt that their own departments had great influence in the decision-making process, they would all be likely to feel that their point of view was considered as decisions were reached. As a result, they would be likely to feel less hostile toward other departments even when a particular decision did not seem ideal from their point of view.5 Essentially, we were predicting that the process of resolving conflicts would produce less heat and more light when all managers felt that their own departments had an important voice in interdepartmental decisions.

Managers in the two low-performing organizations did report significantly lower influence throughout all departments than did those in the other four organizations (Table 111-3) .3 The managers in these two organizations felt that they had significantly less say in decisions than did managers in the other four organizations. Thus the total amount of influence all managers attributed to themselves was different in the two organizations that had the most difficulty in achieving the required states of differentiation and integration from that in the other organizations.

This finding, however, needs some clarification. It is clear that influence in an organization is not a fixed commodity passed down from the top of the organization, as it is sometimes assumed to be. Instead, our findings suggest, as other researchers have found, that influence can expand or contract.6 In four of these organizations the typical manager felt, because of his knowledge and the positional influence delegated to him, that he had considerable influence over decisions reached. As he and his colleagues exercised this felt influence through interaction and discussion, their total amount of influence in the organization did grow. There are two principal explanations of the link between high total influence and organizational effectiveness. One, which was our initial theory described above, is that the connecting link is improved motivation: If all the managers feel that their views are given sufficient attention, they are less likely to be dissatisfied with decisions or to feel antagonistic toward other departments, and better motivated to act vigorously on their part of the agreed-on plan of action. The alternative explanation is that, since the knowledge and judgment of all the departmental specialists were relevant to sound decisions, giving them all considerable influence simply improved the quality of the resulting decision. By this we mean that the decision took more realistic account of environmental facts and thereby led directly to better performance. The data we have examined above do not help us test out these two explanations, since either or both could be at work. We will come back to this question with additional data in Chapter V.

Source: Lawrence Paul R., Lorsch Jay W. (1967), Organization and Environment: Managing Differentiation and Integration, Harvard Business School.

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