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Affected Party Conflicts

The distinction between the risk-taking decision-makers and the danger-carrying affected parties enables one to understand organisations as places in which conflicts of interest must be processed. All positions, including those of the head of a hierarchy, are always both, decision-makers and affected parties. If everyone is affected by the decisions made elsewhere in the organisation, then conflicts are pre-programmed. The decisions of others limit resources, autonomy, scope for one’s own decision-making; they hinder the implementation of decisions made or force new, unpopular decisions of their own. Affected party conflicts are, therefore, characterised by decisions carried out, to which they offer resistance, regardless of a fait accompli. In organisations, open rebellion is usually out of the question, because this would quickly threaten the membership, which is linked particularly to the readiness to accept the decisions of others! Therefore, conflict forms such as underground resistance, boycotts, deferred revenge, torpedo attempts, passivity, depressed performance, high level of sick leave, working to rule, and so on, are widespread.

The means, by which you deal with this type of conflict, are, on the whole, limited in their effectiveness. You can choose the social dimension and try to make affected parties into participants, to acquire their agreement. Others try hard to avoid this at all costs (“Don’t ask the frogs, if you wish to drain the pond!”) and simply rely on power. In the objective dimension, you can hope for empathy (“Unfortunately we could do no other!”) or explain the reasons for the decisions. Finally, you can use the element of time and future compensation (In return we can later …!”), or offer the prospect of reciprocity („Next time you get to have the say!”), or hope that the excitement will die down again. None of these means can be seen as ideal. The prospect of agreement and dialogue is, therefore, always limited. For this reason, the rule that every member of an organisation must, in the end, either submit to certain, outside decisions, or quit, is an indispensable element as to why organisations have taken this form.