Analyzing Power Imbalances


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Analyzing Power Imbalances

Indeed, power imbalances can impede an individual’s attempt to manage work-related conflict. This is because imbalances in power arise from the differences between employers and employees. Thus, power has the capability of being destructive based on this disparity. Usually, the title or hierarchy represents the power that an individual holds within an organization. Therefore, an individual seeking to resolve work-place conflicts will only be as influential as his position. Employees are more likely to adhere to the employer rather than a fellow employee. Additionally, power imbalances create similar effects in conflict. This is because consistent feelings of influence assert unwanted consequences (Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, 2012). Individuals holding greater power may devalue the less powerful in the workplace. This may force persons with less power to harbor sentiments of exasperation, hostility or apathy. Therefore, such feelings in the organization will only impede managing work-place conflicts.

Presenting a synthesized meaning of power and conflict allows understanding of the influence of power in constructive or destructive conflict. In definition, conflict comprises a disagreement regarding goals and the way to achieve such goals (Shepell.fgi, 2010). It usually occurs when there is a gap between expectation and reality. Gaps typically arise from disparities regarding goals. For instance, a faculty member may perform tasks that are different from his specialization. Concerning power, conflict also involves a person blocking another from achieving certain goals. This illustrates the relation between conflict and power. As mentioned, individuals with greater power devalue the less powerful. One such way involves hindering the less powerful from accomplishing goals. This breeds conflict between the influential and the less powerful. Furthermore, an individual with greater power may force a strategy on a less powerful person within an organization (Development Assistance Committee, 2005).

Power can constrain or exacerbate conflict. In constraining conflict, power can be advantageous in various ways. One way involves restraint. In this context, individuals holding greater power may restrict their power by refusing to utilize it. Usually, faculty members possess the capability of communicating. However, they lack equality in the skills required for conflict resolution. Therefore, in exercising restraint, employers can lower their status and sponsor workshops. Through these workshops, managers or employers may assist employees in practicing conflict resolution. Another way in which power can constrain conflict involves communication. Since employers possess influence, they can arrange collaborative meetings between aggrieved parties and allow them to present their issues openly. However, in exacerbating conflict, employers may restrict employees from relaying their grievances through threats of retrenchment (Overbeck, Tiedens, & Brion, 2006). Furthermore, employers may also exacerbate conflict by using their power to define the conditions of the conflict.

Ways exist in which leaders can integrate conflict mediation within the organizational culture. One way in which this is possible is including a hierarchical appeal (Lynch, 2003). A hierarchical appeal will allow an employee air grievances via the firm’s pecking order. Applying this within the organizational culture is highly beneficial. This is because it will allow the employee to solve conflicts with their managers in case of a dispute. Furthermore, if the issues become unresolved at the managerial level, then the employee can present the issue to a Human Resource representative. Another way for integrating conflict mediation involves Integrated Conflict Management Systems. Leaders can implement Integrated Conflict Management Systems within the organization. These systems will possess features that concentrate on preventing unnecessary conflict and manage conflict. Since disputes usually arise from underlying issues, the system will lay the basis for addressing conflict causes.


Development Assistance Committee, DAC. (2005). Preventing Conflict and Building Peace: A Manual of Issues and Entry Points. New York, NY: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

Lynch, J. (2003). Integrated Conflict Management Programs Emerge as an Organization-Development Strategy. CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution, 21(5), 104-110

Overbeck, J. R., Tiedens, L. Z., & Brion, S. (2006). The Powerful Want To, The Powerless Have To: Perceived Constraint Moderates Causal Attributions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 479–496

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, RNAO. (2012). Managing and Mitigating Conflict in Health-care Teams. Toronto, Canada: Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Shepell.fgi. (2010). Addressing Workplace Harassment: Tips to Prevent Work Rage and Manage Conflict. Toronto, Canada: Wiley.


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