Power Conflict: Struggles for Intragroup Control and Dominance
Keller, Kirsten Michelle
Gelfand, Michele J
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There has been a considerable amount of research at the individual level of analysis examining strivings for power and influence within an organizational context. However, research has largely yet to examine how these individual motives and behaviors designed to garner power may translate to processes at the interpersonal and group level, and in particular, the extent to which they may result in conflicts or power struggles between individuals. Therefore, the goal of this dissertation was to delineate and explore a construct of power conflict using both qualitative and quantitative methods in two complementary studies. In the first study of this dissertation, I conducted an inductive, qualitative examination of power conflict designed to provide an in depth exploration of different types or manifestations of power conflict. Using data obtained from 58 semi-structured interviews with employees across 23 different bank branches, this study explored how conflicts over power are enacted within context, including key actions and motives. In addition, this study explored potential antecedents and consequences of power conflict in an effort to begin developing a nomological network. In Study 2, I then built upon these qualitative results by using survey data from 131 bank branches to empirically establish power conflict as an important fourth factor of intragroup conflict, along with the already established task, relationship, and process factors. In support of this, the confirmatory factor analysis results provide evidence that power conflict is a distinct factor of intragroup conflict and is distinct from the potentially related construct of dominating conflict management strategies. I also test a portion of the nomological network developed through the qualitative study by examining the relationship of power conflict to several group level antecedents and consequences. Regression results indicate that groups with higher mean levels of extraversion, lower mean levels of agreeableness, and that are predominantly female tend to have higher levels of power conflict. In contrast, groups that have high learning goal orientation climates tend to have lower levels of power conflict. In terms of consequences, power conflict was significantly related to branch stress and greater branch turnover above and beyond the other three conflict types.