So What Exactly Is a “Coalition” Within an Organization? A Review and Organizing Framework

Murad A. Mithani, Jonathan P. O’Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


An organizational coalition consists of individuals who, despite their persistent differences, work together to pursue a mutually beneficial goal. While central to the political view of the firm, the research on organizational coalitions has evoked diverse characterizations of its members, their relationship with the rest of the organization, and how coalitions balance conflicts and compromise. The result is a fragmented literature that has limited the theoretical clarity necessary to appreciate one of the most important forms of collective political influence in organizations. Drawing on six decades of research, we offer a systematic review of organizational coalitions. We anchor our review on the actors who are party to a coalition, the structures that characterize the boundaries of a coalition, and the processes that lead to a coalition’s influence. This synthesis reveals significant overlaps with regard to the definition of actors, their structural positions, and the perpetual nature of conflict and negotiations. Yet we also note significant divergence in the interactions between actors, how the structure of a coalition maps onto that of an organization, and the processes that affect a coalition’s bargaining position and outcomes. These divergences reveal six distinct streams of research. Using our actor-structure-process model, we organize these research streams into a framework that identifies the diverse conceptualizations as contextual and reconcilable manifestations of a common underlying construct, thus yielding a dynamic model of organizational coalitions. Building on this framework, we propose an agenda for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-206
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Finance
  • Strategy and Management


  • behavioral theory of the firm
  • coalition
  • conflict
  • negotiation


Dive into the research topics of 'So What Exactly Is a “Coalition” Within an Organization? A Review and Organizing Framework'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this