Application: Trust and Power
It probably comes as no surprise that two other important but distinct factors in conflict and conflict resolution are trust and power. You will consider them both in this Application Assignment. Trust is defined differently, depending on the theory or discipline defining it, or on the people involved in any particular conflict. Chapter 5 in your textbook adopts this definition: Trust is “an individual’s belief in, and willingness to act on the basis of, the works, actions, and decisions of another” (McAllister, 1995, p. 25; Lewicki, McAllister, and Bies, 1998, p. 440). It identifies three elements that contribute to level of trust, including individual dispositions, situational contexts, and relationship elements. The focus of the chapter is on the relationship aspect of trust.
Power, as is pointed out in the text, is directly or indirectly inherent in all conflict, in a variety of ways. The author adopts a view that power is “the ability to make things happen” (Follet  (1973); Coleman, 214, p. 139) and presents a number of distinctions to help emphasize and promote that view. He also discusses personal and environmental components of power that interact to affect your behavior, actions, and orientations related to power. It should be noted that power always is in play when there is a disparity of it in a conflict situation. Even when a third party conducts a fair, impartial process that treats the parties equally, the power realities outside of the mediation room remain in effect and, consequently, impact the dynamics of the process. Thus, a party with greater power often has alternatives to reaching an agreement outside of the mediation process, making compromise and a move toward agreement less likely.
- McAllister, D. J. (1995). Affect and cognition-based trust as foundations for interpersonal cooperation in organizations. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 24-59.
- Lewicki, R. J., McAllister, D. J., & Bies, R. J. (1998). Trust and distrust: New relationships and realities. Academy of Management Review, 23, 438-458.
- Follett, M.P. (1973). Power. In E. M. Fox & L. Urwick (Eds.), Dynamic administration: The collected papers of Mary Parker Follett. London: Pitman, 1973.
- Coleman, P. (2014) Power and Conflict : Coleman, P., Deutsch, M., & Marcus, E. (2014). The handbook of conflict resolution: Theory and practice (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass..
To prepare for this assignment:
- Review Chapter 5, “Trust, Trust Development, and Trust Repair” (pp. 104-113 and 115-129), in the course text, The Handbook of Conflict Resolution, paying particular attention to the conceptualization of trust and what role it can play in conflict and conflict resolution.
- Bring to mind your Final Project conflict and think about what kind of trust might come into play in your conflict and how it might do so. Consider to what extent trust exists between or among the parties in your conflict and what you might do to build trust or capitalize on that which exists.
- Review the video, “Building Trust Before Negotiating.” Consider whether the parties in your Final Project conflict have owned up to past mistakes and how you, as a third party, might go about building trust between/among the parties.
- Review Chapter 6, “Power and Conflict” (pp. 137-151 only), in the course text, The Handbook of Conflict Resolution, focusing on the discussion of power and its distinctions and components.
- Think about your Final Project conflict in light of the discussion about power and its distinctions and components. Consider how power is expressed in the conflict, and how each of the topics relates to your specific situation, parties, and issues.
The assignment: (2-3 pages)
- Briefly describe your Final Project conflict, its central issues, and the parties involved.
- Explain how trust, and what kind of trust, might or does come into play in your conflict and/or its resolution.
- Explain what you might do to build trust and/or capitalize on trust that exists in your situation and with the parties in your conflict.
- Explain how power might come into play, or is in play, in your conflict or its resolution. Reference the discussion and distinctions of power presented in your text. Be specific and provide examples to illustrate your points.
- Describe one personal and one environmental factor”that affect your behavior and responses to power”that are most relevant to your conflict, and explain why.