2
POWER AND THE RELATIONS AMONG PROFESSIONS 1

ALVIN ZANDER, ARTHUR R. COHEN, AND EZRA STOTLAND

Cooperation among professional people is at once the easiest and most difficult of relationships. It is the easiest because service to others is a common standard in professional bodies, and members place great value upon it. For this reason, it is easy for people from different professions to join hands in a shared purpose. But cooperation is also difficult because it requires that there be trust and understanding among those who would work together. The members of various professions bring their own points of view, social positions, and skills to the collaborative relation. Differences among them may hinder the development of confidence and mutual agreement.

Why is it that the feelings among members of some professional groups are strongly favorable, while those among others are unfavorable? The research reported here is an attempt to answer this question. It is primarily concerned with the beliefs which members of three different occupations have about one another and the way in which these beliefs are determined by an individual member's role and power. This report contains data from a larger study of the relations among psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric social workers (1). A variety of determinants of professional interaction were studied there, but here we are concerned only with one central factor -- power relations.

An examination of the writings by members of these professions about their role relations and the results of pilot interviews made us aware that the mental health team composed of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric social workers is an ideal subject for the study of power and its effects on interpersonal relations. Certain conditions among these professions make it important to know who has the right to determine what is done and who does it. Most important are: the frequent unclarity in the definition

____________________
1
This investigation was supported by a grant-in-aid (M-325 (C)) from the Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service. We wish to thank Bernard Hymovitch and Otto Riedl who participated in certain stages of the research.

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