Making Conflict Work aims to offer a practical tutorial in managing conflicts across power differences effectively and channeling the considerable energies from conflict in organizations toward achieving important goals. Grounded in more than fifteen years of empirical research conducted in our lab at Columbia University and tested in organizations around the globe, this book offers groundbreaking, evidence-based insights into the strategies and skills necessary for managing even the most demanding work conflicts. In addition to integrating some of the most robust and influential empirical research in the field of conflict resolution, we draw on interviews and case studies with managers, administrators, and executives.
Here are some of the many scientific publications available which describe the research behind the book:
Tracking adaptivity: Introducing a dynamic measure of adaptive conflict orientations in organizations
In Journal of Organizational Behavior By Peter T. Coleman & Katharina Kugler (2014)
Since Darwin, adaptation to change has been associated with survival and fit. Yet despite this, leaders and managers often get stuck in dominating approaches to conflict, and few scholars have examined the role of adaptation in managing conflicts effectively over time and across changing situations. The goal of this paper is threefold. First, we develop a new measure for assessing conflict adaptivity of managers (the Managerial Conflict Adaptivity Assessment – MCAA), based on a situated model of conflict in social relations. We define conflict adaptivity as the capacity to respond to different conflict situations in accordance with the demands specified by the situation. The measure consists of 15 distinct work-conflict scenarios and provides 5 behavioral response options, which represent 5 primary strategies employed in conflict. Individuals who tend to respond to the conflicts in a manner consistent with the situations provided are considered to be more adaptive. Second, we test and find that managerial conflict adaptivity is related to higher levels of satisfaction with conflict processes at work as well as higher levels of well-being at work. Third, we test the MCAA’s construct validity and provide evidence that the MCAA is positively related to behavioral flexibility and self-efficacy.
Getting down to basics: A situated model of conflict in social relations
In Journal of Negotiation By Peter T. Coleman, Katharina Kugler, Lan Bui-Wrzosinska, Andrzej Nowak, & Robin Vallacher (2012)
The field of conflict resolution is fractured. Despite many decades of fine research, we still lack a basic unifying framework that integrates the many theories of conflict dynamics. Thus, the findings from research on conflict are often piecemeal, decontextualized, contradictory, or focused on negative outcomes, which contributes to a persistent research-practice gap. In this article, we describe a situated model for the study of conflict that combines separate strands of scholarship into a coherent framework for conceptualizing conflict in dyadic social relations. The model considers conflict interactions in the context of social relations and employs prior research on the fundamental dimensions of social relations to create a basic framework for investigating conflict dynamics. The resulting model is heuristic and generative. We discuss the theoretical context and main propositions of this model as well as its implications for conflict resolution practitioners.
The view from above and below: The effects of power asymmetries and interdependence on conflict dynamics and outcomes
In Journal of Negotiation and Conflict Management Research By Peter T. Coleman, Katharina Kugler, Adam Mitchinson, Christine Chung, & Naira Musallam (2010)
Deutsch’s theory of conflict resolution is a vital model for understanding the fundamental dynamics of conflict and its constructive resolution. However, the original formulation of the theory assumed equal power and equal degrees of interdependence between the parties in conflict. Although subsequent research has investigated the effects of relative power and interdependence differences on negotiations and conflict, they have yet to be integrated into one model that can account for interactions between the dimensions. This article presents research investigating propositions from a new, integrated model of power, interdependence, and conflict, which extends Deutsch’s theory into situations of asymmetrical power and interdependence. First, two exploratory studies are described that set the foundation for our model. Then, an experiment is presented that induced differences in relative power and interdependence through different versions of a work conflict scenario. The findings supported our model. Different combinations of relative power (high, equal, or low), types of interdependence (cooperative, competitive, or mixed), and degrees of interdependence (high or low) led to significantly different conflict orientations—which affected perceptions, experiences, and responses to conflict. Implications for future research are discussed.
Implicit Theories of Organizational Power and Priming Effects on Managerial Power Sharing Decisions: An Experimental Study
In Journal of Applied Social Psychology By Peter T. Coleman (2004)
Over 60 years of research on participative leadership has documented the many benefits of power sharing in organizations. However, a common obstacle to power sharing is the unwillingness of those with power to share it. An experimental study is presented that investigated the effects of managers’ implicit theories of power in organizations on their willingness to share power with subordinates. The study proposed that chronic differences in implicit power theories (the degree of competitive vs. cooperative beliefs and ideals regarding organizational power relations) would affect managers’ decisions to share or withhold power. Subliminal priming was predicted to temporarily enhance the accessibility of these differences in implicit power theories, thereby fostering or inhibiting spontaneous decisions to share power. Results indicate that the subliminal priming of competitive theories of organizational power negatively influenced managers’ immediate, spontaneous decisions to share power, whereas chronic differences in their implicit theories similarly affected their more systematic decisions to share power. The theoretical and applied contributions of the study are discussed.
Beyond the ivory towers: Organizational power practices and a “practical” critical postmodernism
In Journal of Applied Behavioral Science By Peter T. Coleman & M. Voronov (2006)
The aim of this article is to consider how the important insights offered by critical management studies (CMS) can be made more accessible to wider audiences and used to inform organizational practice. The authors start by briefly discussing the main ideals and aims of CMS, touching on the heterogeneity of the field and focusing on the issues that CMS scholars have had to address to find receptive ears among non-CMS scholars and practitioners. They then proceed to suggest how CMS may become better able to reach those audiences by offering more accessible concepts and methodologies. The notion of organizational power practices is introduced as a way to facilitate that task by making CMS-inspired investigation of power more accessible and relevant to everyday organizational concerns.
Navigating Power and Conflict at Work: The Effects of Power Asymmetries and Interdependence on Conflict Dynamics and Outcomes
In the Journal of Applied Social Psychology By Peter T. Coleman, Katherina Kugler, A. Mitchinson, and C. Foster (2013)
Many of the most difficult conflicts people face at work are up and down; with bosses, supervisors, and important clients, or with direct reports, staff, or other employees who differ from them in terms of their power and interests. However, much of the research on power differences and conflict tends to be piecemeal, decontextualized, and focused on negative consequences. This paper presents 2 studies that investigated a new situated model of conflict and power at work. They build on classic areas of research on social conflict, power, and interdependence; and integrate them into a coherent framework for organizational conflict research. The study methods and findings are presented, and their implications for research on work conflict are discussed.
Effects of organizational values on leader’s use of information power to affect performance in China
In Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, Dean Tjosvold, Peter T. Coleman, & H. Sun (2003)
How managers consider power may impact their interdependence, support, and use of power with employees. The traditional idea that power is limited and scarce was hypothesized to induce managers to develop a competitive relationship and withhold their abilities from employees. In contrast, believing that power is expandable was hypothesized to develop cooperative goals and provide useful assistance, especially when employees lacked the ability rather than the motivation to perform well. Results from an experiment conducted in China indicate that participants used their power to provide directly relevant information to employees when they considered power as expandable rather than independent or limited, and when they believed the employee was unable rather than unmotivated. Results were interpreted as suggesting that believing power is expandable and developing cooperative goals contribute importantly to positive power.
A tale of two theories: Implicit theories of power and power-sharing in organizations
In D. Tjosvold and B. van Knippenberg (Eds.), Power and Interdependence in Organizations, By Peter T. Coleman (2009)
This chapter presents a tale of two implicit theories of organizational power: competitive power and cooperative power. It suggests that basic differences in our assumptions about power can be significant determinants of our behavior as supervisors, managers and leaders. This is particularly so when such assumptions operate automatically, out of our conscious awareness. Information at this level of cognitive processing is often taken as fact, as a given, and therefore can go a long way in shaping our perceptions of and preferences for a host of organizational functions – including how we take up roles of authority. This chapter provides an overview of two contrasting implicit theories of power, and summarizes the research and practical implications of these differences for organizational life.
Tackling the great debate: Nature-nurture, consistency, and the basic dimensions of social relations
By Peter T. Coleman, Robin Vallacher, & Andrzej Nowak (2012)
In Peter T. Coleman (Ed.), Conflict, Cooperation and Justice: The Intellectual Legacy of Morton Deutsch
Social psychology has long suffered from split-personality disorder. From its early roots, the discipline has been alternatively conceptualized from a sociological perspective, which emphasizes the role of the environment and social conditions on the psychology of human interaction, or from the perspective of personality psychology, which privileges the instincts, sentiments, and character of the individual. Deutsch penned his most comprehensive and ambitious theory, the theory of psychological orientations and social relations, to propel Lewin’s original framework forward by conceptualizing 1) what the fundamental dimensions of E (Environment) are, and 2) how they interact with various aspects of P (Person) to ultimately influence B (Behavior). Despite this attempt at theoretical reconciliation—or perhaps because of it—Deutsch’s contribution has been largely dormant for decades, neglected by a field perhaps overly invested in its own divisions. In this chapter, the authors suggest that the time is ripe to take Lewin and Deutsch seriously, and to finally heal our field’s lingering dissociative identity disorder.
Power in Groups and Organizations
By Peter T. Coleman and Maxim Voronov.
In M. West, D. Tjosbold, & K.G. Smith (Eds.), The International Handbook of Organizational Teamwork and Cooperative Working (2003)
This is a chapter about power in groups and organizations. Here, the authors suggest that the analysis and exploration of the complexities of organizational power by managers and workers are both necessary and useful. They begin by discussing three of the prominent theoretical perspectives on power from the literatures of social and organizational psychology and critical management studies. Then outline some of the dilemmas and challenges faced by executives, managers, and workers around empowerment, disempowerment, and organizational democracy. Then, building on the seminal works of Follet, Deutsch, Tjosvold, Clegg, Mumby, and others, offer a framework of organizational power which views power as a multifaceted phenomenon; as thoughts, words, and deeds which are both embedded within and determining of a complex network of relations, structures, and meaning-making processes at different levels of organizational and community life.
By Peter T. Coleman
In Coleman, P.T., Deutsch, M., & Marcus, E. (Eds.) (3rd Edition). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice (2014)
This chapter provides an overview of some key components of the relationship between power and conflict. It is organized in five sections, beginning with a discussion of the dimensions of power that are important when considering conflict and its constructive resolution. In the second section, I describe some of the personal and environmental factors that research has shown affect people’s behavioral tendencies and responses to power in social relations. In the third section, I discuss the relevance of these ideas to conflict resolution, examining some of the principles of the dynamics of power and conflict and outlining the tendencies of members of both high-power and low- power groups in conflict. I then describe a new situated model of power and conflict, before concluding by discussing the implications of these ideas for training in conflict resolution.