Document Type


Date of Award

Spring 5-31-1983

Degree Name

Master of Science in Management Engineering - (M.S.)


Industrial and Management Engineering

First Advisor

James L. Rigassio


This work is an heuristic inquiry into behavioral change theory designed for application to labor/management interaction in collective bargaining. The theory itself was postulated by Richard E. Walton and Robert B. McKersie in their book A Behavioral Theory Of Labor Negotiations. The principles of their theory are highly axiomatic and their importance and validity can only be recognized through applied empirical analyses that demonstrate or refute its concept.

The aspect of the theory which is the focal point of this research pertains to the structuring and restructuring of attitudes and attendant relationships resulting from the collective bargaining process. The objective of this work is two-fold. First, the analytical utility of the theory is examined by applying its tenets to an analysis of the behavioral strategies and tactics used by the respective labor and management operatives in the 1981 Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization strike. Second, the consistency of the theory and model with current knowledge and research in the field is examined; also how that knowledge and research enhances the Walton-McKersie analysis is discussed.

Case study methodology is used to illustrate the thesis concept because any empirical study that examines the validity and practicality of a theory has added value when it is done within the realm of that given discipline. Also, absolute studies beat illustrate the trends by which researchers and practitioners approach problems in their fields and help to possibly clarify those approaches.

From this study it is concluded that the Walton-McKersie attitudinal structuring model offers the most elucidative classification of relationships and behaviors descriptive of the negotiating process of all materials researched. It can be applied in collective bargaining interactions to reduce behavioral uncertainties. However,, to improve the model's operational utility as a motivational, predictive, and informational tool, additional research and study is required in the following areas. First, as shown in the case study example, humans do not always use probability information effectively; sometimes they ignore it. The probability of a confrontation and the attendant consequences were made clear to all operatives in the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) strike, however, shattering consequences for both sides were not avoided. Additional study and research on how collective bargaining processes are affected by varying political, economic, intra-organizational and inter-organizational policies, and social climates will enhance the operational utility of the Walton-McKersie model. Second, the implication interpretable from the above probability of occurrence example is that people, and the organizations that they comprise, estimate the probability of single occurrences more adequately than aggregate probabilities of occurrence, and that the strategies often adopted as a result, are not optimal. Research on how objective probabilities and payoff values (based on past bargaining profiles and current information) can be applied to the Walton-McKersie concepts will allow for simulation and decision theory type analysis of negotiating processes, thus improving the model's predictive utility. Finally, it is suggested in the thesis that goals rather than attitudes be the focal point of behavioral change models related to negotiations. Additional research on the motivational qualities of goal setting in bargaining activities will help in the understanding of how goals and behaviors are linked.

The developmental implication of all the above is to move towards a more useful and analytical model of collective bargaining processes.



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