Conflict and Politics at Disney


The primary cause of business failure is the internal conflict in themanagement and the inability of the leaders to settle theirdifferences and work toward a common objective. Some high-rankingleaders can use their positions to rally support towards theirindividual goals and method of leadership without involving the viewsof those who have contrasting opinions. Organizational politics isalso a major hindrance to appropriate decision making and it resultsin the formation of groups within the management with each of theinfluential leaders having the support of their loyal follower.Unless there emerges a leader who dismantles unnecessary control andlengthy bureaucracies, there is an imminent danger of an organizationlosing its position in an industry.

Conflict, Politics, and Conflict Resolution

At the beginning and mid-2000, Walt Disney recovered poor performancedue to conflicts in its leadership. The method used by Eisner createdlengthy bureaucracies that resulted in delays in the passing andimplementation of critical decisions. Also, he embraced thecentralized decision-making process, and he controlled the entireprocess without putting into consideration the opinions of thosearound. For this, reason, he lost grip with some directors butcontinue to enjoy the support of those whom he had handpicked. Thecompany reordered loses and this threatened its relationship withmajor contractors including Pixar. It was not until after Iger becamethe CEO that the company dismantled the lengthy bureaucracies andgave room for quick decision-making.

The initial performed of Disney and were attributable toorganizational power. This is the ability of one person or group toovercome and counter resistance by others to achieve the setobjectives (Jones, 2010). There is an intricate relationship betweenconflict and power. The source of conflict plaguing Disney wasprimarily unobtrusive. This form of power results from the ability tomanipulate the premises that make decisions. A leader indirectlycontrols a coalition that inclines to dependent assumptions, normsand goals that cannot be in conflict with the hand that controls it(Jones, 2010).

Concerning this form of power, Eisner had a group of handpickeddirectors who were loyal to him, and they could not do anything todisplease him. In Disney, the board of trustees is instrumental inmaking important decisions regarding where to make investmentchanges. Maintaining cohesion is such a team requires a significantlevel of consideration of the people’s opinion and refraining fromdismissing them as obsolete (Jones, 2010). When some members feltthat they had no control over the direction that the company wastaking, they kept their distance, and they did not support Eisnerduring his turmoil with Steve jobs.

Organizational politics also played a part in the conflict thatensued in Disney. Organizational politics involves the activitiestaken within an organization to acquire and exploit the power and theavailable resources to achieve one’s preferred outcomes especiallyduring disagreements (Jones, 2010). As a leader, Eisner used a coupleof political controls to remain as the sole voice behind decisions.First, he employed the aspect of centrality whereby decision-makingtook place from a single point. With this, he could control thedirection of the business. Secondly, he built a coalition purposivelyto monitor the decisions since his lieutenants would rally behindhim. Since they were the majority on the board of directors, theothers could not enforce their agendas.

The growth of the conflict and its settlement in Disney seems to havefollowed the Pondy’s Model of Organizational conflict. Conflict,according to Poddy follows five stages. In the first stage, referredas the latent conflict phase, there is no outright conflict but thereis a potential environment for its growth (Deutsch et al., 2011). InDisney, it all started in early 2000 when Disney fell under criticismfor the company’s poor performance. There was no pronouncedconduct, but the undesirable record would be the source of conflict.The second stage, also dubbed as perceived conflict stage, thesubunits become aware conscious of the conflict, and they startbattling for the cause of their differences (Deutsch et al., 2011).Some directors felt that the centralized decision-making process wasnot appropriate for the company, and they began drifting theirsupport away from Eisner.

In the third stage, the groups in the conflict respond emotionally toeach other and the small problem escalates into a big conflict(Deutsch et al., 2011). After Steve Jobs had threatened to denyDisney, a continued contract with the company, the directors notaffiliated with Eisner flute his leadership and sought to instituteIger. It was proof that they could not fathom Eisner’s leadershipmodel. In the fourth stage, the conflict manifests itself fully.There is an open aggression and the organizational effectivenesssuffers. The directors not affiliated to Eisner new that the only wayto put the company back on track was to remove Eisner from hisposition, and this was after Steve Jobs threatened to deny thecompany another contract. They, therefore, pressured him, and heyielded.

In the last stage, an organization resolves its conflict in a waythat leaves the subunits either combative or cooperative (Deutsch etal., 2011). The board intensified its pressure on Eisner, whoconsequently resigned. Iger dismantled the bureaucratic department,sent some managers on forced retirement, and retained the best ones.

The dismantling of the strategic planning office reduced thebureaucratic procedures that delayed the implementation ofinnovations. Iger discovered that the long red take sloweddecision-making. The lengthy procedures used by manager had nofinancial benefit to the company. The strategic team could take along time sifting through the ideas from the different decisionsincluding theme parks, movies, and gaming. After Iger had scrappedit, the divisions presented more ideas that before from the knowledgethat they did not have to pass through a lengthy process to get tothe CEO. By sending the best managers back to their departments, Igerdecentralized decision-making process whereby each department wouldsettle for an idea and present it directly to Iger and this increasedtheir effectiveness. He was also therefore independent to adopt thebest leadership method after the exit of Eisner, his mentor. Inaddition to this, there was a consequent timely decision making withthe most impactive being the acquiring of Marvel that had severalrights under its name.

Effects of Power on Organizational Structure

There are various sources of power in an organization. Power can comefrom the authority that an individual holds. It emanates from theroles and responsibilities f that position. For example, the CEO’sposition commands respect from the junior managers. This form ofpower results in a hierarchical organizational structure. The higherone ranks, the more authority recommends (Daft, 2012). Secondly,power can emanate from the control over vital resources in anorganization. It may result in a feeling of helplessness among theemployees and other leaders in an organization since they cannot actcontrary to the will of the leader who controls vital resource. Thereis no devolved responsibility in sharing resources.Non-substitutability of some leaders is also a source of power. Frexample, leaders with rare abilities or proprietors who cannot vacatetheir positions of other people makes them powerful (Daft, 2012). Iteffects include organizations relying on their services and doingtheir best to retain them.

Centrality is also a primary source of control in an organization.In this case, a leader structures the decision making process to beunder his/her sole direction. Such a leader has the final word on allthe relevant resolutions in an organization. Some leaders also derivetheir authority from employing unobtrusive approaches whereby, theyform a coalition that helps them to control the decision-makingprocess (Daft, 2012). They have a strong team in the decision-makingbodies, for example on the board of directors. Any settlement agreedupon, therefore, directly serves the goals of the leader.

In the current competitive global environment, organizations need tohave feasible strategies for them to remain relevant in theirrespective industries. In evaluating a viable organizational strategyin the global environment, three factors are imperative resources,capabilities and mindset (Kim &amp Mauborgne, 2009). With theappropriate support, the capacity to efficiently exploit theseresources and the correct mindset to achieve the set goals, acompany’s strategy can be said to be effective. Although resourcesmight be present for many organizations, the capacity to exploit themrequires investment in human resources (Kim &amp Mauborgne, 2009).Cultivating the right mindset is largely the duty of the management.Effective leadership styles with decentralized decision-makingprocesses and practical capacity for conflict resolution results inthe adoption of the mindset by even the junior employees.


In conclusion, the leadership style and source of power in anorganization can be a major source of conflicts. In addition, lengthybureaucracies kill the morale of employees, and they shy away frompresenting new ideas to the work processes. A decentralizeddecision-making process motivates managers and other workers sincethey do not have to wait long to know the verdict of their proposals.In the global environment, only companies with the capacity intoexploit the available resources and an objective can survive thecompetition and the dynamic nature of the various industries.


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Deutsch, M.,Coleman, P. T., &amp Marcus, E. C. (Eds.). (2011). The Handbookof Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice. New York N.Y.: JohnWiley &amp Sons.

Jones, G. R. (2010).Organizational Theory, Design, and Change. Upper Saddle River:New York N.Y.: Pearson.

Kim, W &ampMauborgne, R. (2009). How Strategy Shapes Structure. HarvardBusiness Review. Retrieved from