LEC 13 POWER, POLITICS AND ETHICS
What Is Power?
Power is the capacity to influence others who are in a state of dependence.
It is not always perceived or exercised.
It does not imply a poor relationship between the power holder and the target of power.
Power can flow in any direction in an organization.
Power applies to both individuals and groups.
The Bases of Individual Power
Power can be found in the position one occupies in an organization or the resources that one is able to
There are five bases of individual power:
1. Legitimate power
2. Reward power
3. Coercive power
4. Referent power
5. Expert power
Power derived from a person’s position or job in an organization.
It is based on one’s authority and level in an organization’s hierarchy.
Legitimate power works because people have been socialized to accept its influence.
Power derived from the ability to provide positive outcomes and prevent negative outcomes.
It corresponds to the concept of positive reinforcement.
Any organizational member can attempt to exert influence over others with praise, compliments, and flattery.
Power derived from the use of punishment and threat.
Lower-level organizational members can also apply their share of coercion.
When managers use coercive power, it is generally ineffective and can provoke considerable employee
Power derived from being well liked by others.
It stems from identification with the power holder.
Referent power is available to anyone in an organization who is well liked.
Interpersonal relations often permit influence to extend across the organization, outside the usual channels of
legitimate authority, reward, and coercion.
Power derived from having special information or expertise that is valued by an organization.
Expert power corresponds to difficulty of replacement.
Expert power is a valuable asset for managers.
Of all the bases of power, expertise is most consistently associated with employee effectiveness.
Employees perceive women managers as more likely than male managers to be high in expert power. Employee Responses to Bases of Power
Employees are likely to have the following response to each base of managerial power:
Coercive power Resistance
Reward power Compliance
Legitimate power Compliance
Expert power Commitment
Referent power Commitment
How Do People Obtain Power?
How do people get power?
People obtain power in organizations by doing certain activities and developing informal relationships with the
Doing the Right Things
Excellent performance in unusual or non-routine activities
Activities must be visible to others and publicized.
Relevant to the solution of important organizational problems
Cultivating the Right People
Establishing good relationships with key people outside of one’s organization
Being closely identified with certain up-and-coming subordinates
Being backed by a cohesive team
A means of ensuring that nothing gets in the way of one’s future acquisition of power.
Liaisons with key superiors is the best way of obtaining power through cultivating others.
Mentors can provide power in several ways
Empowerment means giving people the authority, opportunity, and motivation to take initiative and solve
People who are empowered have a strong sense of self-efficacy.
Empowering lower-level employees can be critical in service organizations.
Empowerment fosters job satisfaction and high performance.
Empowerment puts power where it is needed to make the organization effective.
Empowerment should lead to effective performance when people have sufficient power to carry out their jobs.
Excessive power can lead to abuse and ineffective performance.
Relationship Between Power and Performance
Who Wants Power? Need for power (n Pow) is the need to have strong influence over others.
It is a reliable personality characteristic – some people have more n Pow than others.
When n Pow is responsible and controlled, its negative properties are not observed.
The most effective managers use their n Pow for the good of the organization. They are called institutional
have a high n Pow;
use their power to achieve organizational goals;
adopt a participative or “coaching” leadership style; and
are relatively unconcerned with how much others like them.
Institutional managers are more effective than personal power managers, who use their power for personal
gain, and affiliative managers, who are more concerned with being liked than with exercising power.
Institutional managers are superior in giving subordinates a sense of responsibility, clarifying organizational
priorities, and instilling team spirit.
Controlling Strategic Contingencies - How Subunits Obtain Power
Subunit power refers to the degree of power held by various organizational subunits, such as departments.
How do organizational subunits acquire power?
Subunits gain power by controlling strategic contingencies.
Strategic contingencies are critical factors affecting organizational effectiveness that are controlled by a key
The work other subunits perform is contingent on the activities and performance of a key subunit.
We see the critical role of dependence in power relationships.
Conditions under which subunits can control strategic contingencies:
Differences in subunit power are likely