How Are Managerial Decision Making And Conflict Linked?

What tactics do managers use when trying to exert influence and power through information and decision making?

  1. Information Control: information gives power. It is always hard to argue against the facts, even if you consider them to be flawed or even worse, wrong. Managers keep key pieces of critical information to themselves to refute or disregard the opinions and facts of their subordinates, managers who refuse to distribute key pieces of information before a key meeting only to then present this at the meeting, use of the filters of “confidential” or “restricted” files or papers, layers and levels of committees that hide and distort information. All weapons in the conflict war!
  2. Gatekeepers: specialists who control key information for their own ends. This lends itself very well to self-promotion and developing the importance of the group and the individual. The design and delivery of the “open and shut” proposal, based on details and knowledge that nobody understands, or is familiar with,  makes sure that agreement has to follow because we are all deprived of any real sense of what is actually happening. The decision now sits with the Gatekeeper, however much we might not like it!
  3. Information distortion: the misuse of information control. The perceptual bias that comes with a managerial position bends information to the decisions being made. Engineers will spend huge amounts of time working on a product that is first class in every way, unconcerned by budget overspends because, well, they are just not that interested. The customer only wanted a basic model but the Engineers have crafted a superb component at a massive price tag! Many decisions are just taken on the basis of cost and quality alone – what about other considerations in the mix? Long term benefits, successive product development perhaps, longevity in the market?
  4. Rules and Regulations: managers and groups who feel that their influence is not all it should be will begin to impose rules and procedural regulations to try to get some of this lost ground back. These may be imposed on individuals, groups or a combination of both – a glut of new Forms to complete, procedures to follow, all based around the concept of drawing attention to themselves and in promoting their particular “brand” or point of view.

So, what practical steps can we take to try to minimise these situations?

  • Networks; a way of getting around the nightmare of rules and regulations is to establish a network of informal, under-the-wire relationships with key allies that can then offer a way around the bureaucracy. This can be on a purely operational level but can and does include having friends in “high places” that can cut through the red tape and make things actually happen, perhaps in the way they really should be happening!
  • Setting up a Clique: a collection of networks involving a number of individuals forming a powerful group that seeks to undermine the established procedural mess. The danger here however is that these informal groupings can take on a very territorial role and actually seriously damage the wider organisation in a way the members never actually saw coming.
  • Informal alliances against a common enemy: very common in times of extreme duress and strife. Company take-over anyone?
  • Control of rewards: line managers will rebel against staff tactics by refusing to promote staff experts or by rejecting their proposals. The power from those above in the organisational hierarchy is always far greater than those from a peer/staff line hence muscles are flexed and decisions made.

Always look beyond the immediate decision being made or the means by which it has been communicated – this will show you how and where the overlap between Information, Decision Making and Conflict sits.

Good Luck!

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