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Conflict Management Case Study Essay

What forms of interpersonal power are evident in the case and why?

All five forms of interpersonal power appear in various parts of the case study. Coercive power is represented in the case study when John Lasseter began working for the Disney animation studio and came to realize that the powers that be expected nothing but coercion from their employees. People were expected to comply with the way things have always been done. New ideas were neither encouraged nor supported. In addition, top managers sought no input from employees, choosing to make all decisions themselves. When Lasseter started working for Pixar, he experienced reward power. The work he completed for them was heralded and recognized by executives for his innovation. His attitude revealed that he places less importance on monetary reward and more significance on the intrinsic reward of doing a good job.

Legitimate power is exemplified when Disney and Pixar merged, and as the standing top creative executive at Pixar Lasseter took on the responsibility for reviving animation at Disney. His role as the creative director gave him the legitimate power to make decisions regarding a wide range of topics in his department. With the title of creative director, he had the formal right to make demands and expect compliance from others in the department.

Only after Lasseter’s move to Pixar did he experience referent power. This came after he gained executives’ and coworkers’ admiration for his animation work. The advances he brought to the company also earned the respect and admiration of many, resulting in an increase in referent power. In his previous position at Disney, Lasseter had no referent power. Similar to the case of the referent power, Lasseter gained expert power with his work at Pixar. The knowledge, innovation, and skill that Lasseter brought with him to Pixar instantly earned him this expert power. He was viewed as a key player in achieving innovation because of his expertise in the area of animation. In what ways do the two faces of power appear in the case?

The two faces of power, commonly classified as organizational and personal, are evident in a few different areas of Lasseter’s history with Disney and Pixar. The leadership style at his first position at Disney reflected the self-aggrandizing personal face of power, mainly perceived as having a negative connotation. The unspoken norm at Disney was that lower level employees were to bow down to their superiors and obey their desires. Input from employees was not encouraged in any way. The power that came with a higher position was often used for personal gain.

In contrast, operations at Pixar demonstrated the organizational, positive face of power. This face of power is categorized as working for the greater good of the entire organization, desiring to serve others, and working together to foster productivity (Clements, 2014). The team at Pixar pooled their knowledge and expertise to create groundbreaking computer-generated cartoon animation. From then on, Pixar saw many successes because of their ability to hone the organizational face of power. Instead of discouraging input and innovation from employees at all levels, Pixar urged this innovation from employees.

As shown with the case of Lasseter at Pixar, they supported the advancement of his pioneering ideas for the benefit it would bring the entire organization. Their consideration was not in regard to personal gain, but rather gains for the organization in entirety. Does the firing of John Lasseter from Disney Studios and the events leading to his firing demonstrate the ethical use of power?

John Lasseter’s termination from Disney represented an unethical use of power. The termination was unfair and ungrounded; it represented an unethical use of power. This unethical use of power began in prior times leading up to his firing, when he was reprimanded for pursuing new forms of computer animation. The leadership did not find Lasseter’s proposals to be acceptable, citing the reason as the cost of production being too high. This claim was also unfounded, as Lasseter, himself, explained to executives that the cost was no higher than the current animated features.

Nonetheless, executives at Disney shot down his ideas and perceived his actions as being detrimental to the organization. Immediately after presenting his ideas, he was terminated from Disney. No reasons were cited for the termination, there was no opportunity for negotiation, and conflict resolution was not attempted. The sequence of these events illustrate that Disney executives’ grounds for termination were unethical. Their only intent was with regard to money, not support of employees or innovation of animation. Did the firing of John Lasseter indicate the existence of political behavior in the Disney organization?

This case is a great example of political behavior within an organization. The Disney organization was structured in a way that only top leaders had decision-making authority. In addition, it is obvious that power struggles were in play throughout the organization and money was a top consideration. Political behavior is described perfectly in the case study when Lasseter explains that he was told, “You put in your time for 20 years and do what you’re told, and then you can be in charge.” This type of behavior in an organization indicates that employees are expected to obey their superiors, that there is no acceptance of individualism, and that input is not to be given unless you are at the highest level of management. Describe a situation, from your experience, where political behavior in an organization contributed to benefit or detriment you or someone else.

In a previous job, I worked in an environment where three other women had worked together already for many years. I felt as though political behavior was in place in that they had a preconceived idea of what the person in my position would need to conform to in order to succeed in the company. I proved to not fit this mold. From the beginning, I wanted to improve tasks so that they were done more efficiently, save time, and become more productive. The small changes I made to processes were not received well by these other women.

They wanted to keep everything the way it already was, even if a more efficient method was available. Other people within the company welcomed the changes, as it freed up time that I could spend doing other tasks that would, in turn, save them time. This was not the case with my immediate manager and her coworkers. Over time, the tone in the office became more hostile and I felt like I could not please them. One day, as I was getting ready for work, I received a phone call saying to not come in, that I was being terminated. There were no reasons for the termination, and no other events leading to the termination explained it except for the political behavior in the office.


Changing Minds. (2013). French and Raven’s forms of power. Retrieved from
http://changingminds.org/explanations/power/french_and_raven.htm Clements, C. & Washbush, J. (2014). The two faces of leadership. Techsis Investors. Retrieved from http://www.healthcarequities.com/pages/managment/2facesleader.html

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