The lawsuit came about as follows. The Act, passed in 1988, was designed to give Boards the resources and control needed to treat SMD clients either within the community or in State Hospitals, by giving them direct control over the state funds designated for SMD clients. Prior to the Act, most of the state's SMD funds went directly from ODMH to the ODMH-operated State Hospitals to pay for very expensive inpatient care. The Act mandated a 6-year phase-in period during which the amount of these funds available to Boards increased from 0% to 100%. In 1993 six Boards filed suit, charging that ODMH was failing to distribute funds at the levels specified in the Act. That year, Boards were to have the option of receiving 60% of the state's SMD funds, but were actually limited to about 30%. ODMH asserted that these funds were needed to maintain the State Hospitals, but some Boards argued that they did not have the funds needed to treat those SMD clients who were no longer hospitalized.

Six months later, the presiding judge approved an ODMH motion that all Boards had to join the case as: a) plaintiffs, b) defendants (side with ODMH), c) intervenors (willing to continue to negotiate out-of-court with ODMH), or d) non-parties (waive their right to participate). As a result, 13 Boards (24%) ended up as plaintiffs, 11 (21%) joined with ODMH as defendants, 25 (47%) became intervenors and 4 (8%) took the non-party stance.


The four stances in the lawsuit can be conceptualized as indicating varying levels of organizational resistance to institutional pressures, as per Oliver (1991). Drawing on the institutional and resource dependence perspectives, she proposes a typology of five responses that vary from passive conformity to active resistance. The four stances fit into this typology as follows. Defendants are examples of acquiescence (blind adherence to pressure or a conscious decision to comply), the most passive response. Compromise, a more active response, is an attempt to balance, pacify or bargain, and describes intervenors, who are willing to continue to negotiate with ODMH. Boards taking the non-party stance fit into the avoidance category, the next most active response, because they are actively eluding institutional pressures. Plaintiff Boards are the most resistant, demonstrating a response of defiance. Oliver's fifth category, manipulation, does not apply here.

Our model (Figure 1) predicts that the quality of the relationship between organizations is a proximal cause of organizational resistance. The IOR literature (e.g., Oliver, 1990; Ring & Van de Ven, 1994) argues that the health of a dyadic relationship impacts co-determined organizational responses. Healthy IORs, characterized by interpersonal trust and equity, will have a strong commitment to maintaining the working relationship and to developing effective conflict resolution mechanisms (Ring & Van de Ven, 1994). In other words, a high quality relationship will reduce the likelihood of using formal and legal mechanisms for resolving conflict.

Issue interpretation is the next link in our model. Issues can be framed in multiple ways, and the appropriateness of a frame for a research project depends on the context and the response being studied. Here, control and feasibility are the frames most relevant to the quality of working relationships between Boards and ODMH and to the response to institutional pressure. Control is salient because the Act was designed to shift control to Boards and the lawsuit is a fight over control of funds. Board perceptions of control over implementing the Act will have a positive effect on the quality of the working relationship with ODMH and will indirectly affect the extent of resistance to institutional pressure. Feasibility of successful implementation is also salient, given the legal obligation to implement the Act in the midst of a funding crisis. Those with a positive feasibility frame would have fewer difficulties working with ODMH; those who see low feasibility would make an external attribution and blame ODMH for not releasing the funds. Framing the issue as feasible is predicted to lead to a better working relationship with ODMH, and, indirectly, affect the stance taken in the lawsuit.

Our model contains contextual factors, based on Thomas et al.'s (1994) model. At the individual level, work experience provides knowledge and confidence (e.g., Frederickson, 1985), leading to perceptions of control and feasibility. At the group level, we include information processing capacity of top management.


Research Home - Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5< PREV  NEXT >



Copyright 2002 Decision Support Services, Incorporated.
Website related questions, comments and problems can be sent to