On the Frontier of Success: Integrated Conflict Management Systems and the Empowerment of Change

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The integrated conflict management system (“ICMS”) model, deemed a best practice in the industrial relations subfield of workplace conflict management, offers a proactive approach to organizational conflict through the coordinated provision of more alternative dispute resolution options and educational resources than traditionally found within organizations. Though it is considered the gold-standard organizational intervention for productively addressing conflict in the workplace, measures of success for ICMSs have not been agreed upon or systematically categorized. This dissertation is an intellectual history of the theoretical and practical foundations of organizational integrated conflict management systems and a case study of a critical case of arguably the leading ICMS currently in operation in the United States: the ICMS at the United States Department of the Interior. Based on a year of fieldwork using participant observation, ethnographic, and interview methods, as well as analysis of archival data, the dissertation develops a new typology of the ICMS model that categorizes systems based upon how their success is defined and determined. The typology consists, at the extremes, of two orientations: a resolution orientation focused on resolving disputes and an empowerment orientation focused on facilitating change. Within the typology, measures of ICMS success are categorized and considered as falling on two spectrums: one at the level of the individual employee and the other at the level of the organization. The combination of individual-level and organizational-level success measures adopted in a particular ICMS can be averaged to determine if an ICMS can be categorized as one operating with a resolution orientation, an empowerment orientation, or as one that falls on the spectrum between the two orientations. Instead of arriving at one definitive measure ICMS success, the dissertation argues choices regarding how to measure success of ICMSs are critical decisions that can lead to radically different system designs, operational practices, and outcomes for employees and organizations.

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Labor relations


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Lipsky, David Bruce

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Warner, Mildred E.
Batt, Rosemary

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Industrial and Labor Relations

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Ph. D., Industrial and Labor Relations

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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