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How Power and Politics Affect Conflict

How Power and Politics Affect Conflict

It doesn’t matter whether you think organizational power and politics are important, unproductive, meaningless, necessary, or stimulating. They aren’t going away and they often cause conflicts between peers. For example, if a peer relationship doesn’t require frequent teamwork, neither manager may recognize or appreciate the other’s authority. During a conflict both may feel that their power is being threatened, their authority is being questioned or dismissed, or their hard-won territory is under assault.

There are many kinds of power in organizations. It can be formal and based on position, such as a boss to a direct report. It can be ingrained in the organizational chart, such as the vice presidents on an executive team over department heads. Power can also have informal sources, such as a person’s charisma or connections. Some people have power that is linked to their ability to inspire, coerce, influence, or reward others. Relationships without explicit formal power – such as between peers – often contain channels of informal power. The play between formal power and informal power is the essence of organizational politics – and conflict between peers often debuts on that political stage.


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