UBC Theses and Dissertations
aboratory study of the labor-management bargaining relationship. Douglas, Ronald Lew
The present study is intended as an alternative to the experimental game approach to the investigation of conflict. It explores a particular real-world conflict situation, the labor-management bargaining relationship, and is viewed as a transitional step between laboratory experimentation and research in natural settings. Subjects were 34 male adults, 19 representing "Management" and 15 representing "Labor", all with formal bargaining experience in labor-management negotiations. A total of ten 3-hour sessions were conducted in which representatives of both parties participated in 3- and 4-person groups. The study was designed to provide information concerning ways in which representatives of each party (1) perceive the labor-management relationship, and (ii) approach negotiations. Perceptual information was obtained by means of an opinion questionnaire which dealt with specific aspects of labor relations, and semantic differential-type scales. In addition to the descriptive information provided by these tools, it was found that: (1) labor representatives perceived more differences of opinion between "Labor" and "Management" than did management representatives; (2) the personal opinions of management representatives differed from the opinions they perceived "Management" in general to hold more frequently than the personal opinions of labor representatives differed from the opinions they perceived "Labor" in general to hold; (3) the personal opinions of labor representatives differed from the opinions they perceived "Management" in general to hold:, more frequently than the personal opinions of management representatives differed from the opinions they perceived "Labor" in general to hold; (4) no differences existed between the labor sample and the management sample in terms of homogeneity of perception or in terms of homogeneity of personal opinion. The first finding is considered to reflect different values placed upon tension and conflict by "Labor" and "Management", while the second and third findings suggest a greater tendency for "Labor" to hold personal opinions which resemble a perceived "party line". An implication of the fourth finding is that if exogeneous "party lines" do exist, the "party line" adopted by "Labor" is no more well defined for labor representatives than any "Management party line" is for management representatives. A potentially important observation involving misperceptions was the tendency for both labor and management representatives to think the other party perceived them in a less favorable manner than it actually did. This is regarded as one consequence of the roles prescribed for two parties in a conflict relationship. Negotiating information was obtained from a formal analysis of the verbal content of simulated bargaining sessions. The bargaining problem employed in this study cast management representatives in the role of business partners and labor representatives as the elected officials representing employees of the business. The two parties were required to negotiate a wage settlement for the coming year on the basis of a projected wage and profit analysis adapted from the model of Sawyer's bargaining board. Findings are outlined in terms of the ways in which Labor and Management presented the position of their party on the wage issue, questioned the position taken by the other party, and dealt with questions and arguments from the other party. Those aspects of verbal behavior reported Include the relative emphasis given particular bargaining positions, the kinds of arguments presented and degree of determination with which supportive statements were expressed, the types of information exchanged, and the nature of threats and attacks made by each party. In addition to categorizing verbal statements made during "negotiations", emphasis was placed upon the relative frequency with which a particular kind of statement was made by Labor and Management. Implications of the findings of this exploratory study and suggestions for future research are discussed.
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