Almost every conflict situation consists of one party having more power than the other. When the power differential is significant, this usually has a major effect on both the matter and process of the dispute. In order for the outcome of the conflict to be fair, both parties must be relatively equal when it comes to power if resolution of the conflict is to be fair. If one side is far more powerful than another, they are more likely to impose their solution on the weaker party, who in turn will be forced to acquiesce, because they have no other choice.
(Tost, Gino & Larrick 2013) argues that “when a formal leader experiences a heightened subjective sense of power, he or she tends to dominate group discussions and interactions, which leads other team members to perceive that their views and perspectives are not valued”. This perceived imbalance definitely hampers any attempt at managing workplace conflict. When employees feel that they have no authority or empowerment they tend to be disengaged, and disengaged employees effect productivity. Low productivity can be considered a form of dissatisfaction and thus labelled a conflict that must be addressed by both employee and manager.
Conflict and Power
The textbook definition of conflict is when two or more individuals or concepts appear to be incompatible, and in this case low productivity versus high productivity is the conflict that must be addressed between the employee and manager. Power on the other hand is the capacity to do something either by physical force or strength and in this case the employee perceives that the manager has all the power in this situation. This now becomes a power imbalance or struggle of major proportion as the employee perceives that they are not empowered enough to be heard, or be allowed to offer any resolution to the conflict. The imbalance breeds bitterness and hatred on the part of the employee. Rarely do we see an imbalance that favors the employee, or where a manager has an interpersonal conflict and consider himself to be inadequate and not equipped to work through the conflict resolution process with the employee. “One can hold a position of power while simultaneously perceiving oneself to have low competence in the domain of power” (Fast & Chen 2009).
To constrain or exacerbate conflict
Power can constrain or exacerbate conflict through relational transgressions. Relational transgressions leave emotional residues due to the violation of core rules defined in the relationship (Abigail & Cahn, 2011). There are fundamental social rules and expectations of behavior, and it defines how people are expected to interact with each other within a relationship. A person has different levels of expectations in relationships which are not necessarily contingent on designated power. The example of an employee in a department having a set of expectations of his/her new boss, but those expectations can change if the employee moves to another...