Chapter 12: Power, Politics, Ethics
! Power: The capacity to influence others who are in a state of dependence. 1) However, it is
not always perceived or exercised. 2) The target of power is dependent on the powerholder
does not imply that a poor relationship exists between the two. 3) Power can flow in any
direction in an organization. Often, members at higher organizational levels have more power
than those at lower levels. Sometimes the reversal can occur. It is also a broad concept that
applies to both individuals and groups.
! Power can be found in the position that you occupy in the organization or the resources that
you are able to command. First base of power is legitimate power and is dependent on one’s
position or job. The other bases(reward, referent) involve the control of important resources.
If other organizational members do not respect your position or value the resources that you
command, they will not be dependent on you, and you will lack the power to influence them.
! Legitimate power: Power derived from a person’s position or job in an organization. It
constitutes the organization’s judgement about who is formally permitted to influence whom,
and it is often called authority and usually increases as you move up the hierarchy.
Organizations differ greatly in the extent to which they emphasize and reinforce legitimate
power. When legitimate power works, it often does so because people have been socialized to
accept its influence. Usually causes compliance with boss’s demands.
! Reward power: Power derived from the ability to provide positive outcomes and prevent
negative outcomes. It often backs up legitimate power. Managers are given the chance to
recommend raises, do performance evaluations, etc. Usually causes compliance with boss’s
! Coercive Power: Power derived from the use of punishment and threat. It supports legitimate
power. Lower-level organizational members can also apply their share of coercion. The use of
punishment can provoke considerable employee resistance.
! Referent power: Power derived from being well liked by others. 1) It stems from
identification with the powerholder. Stems from something deeper than reward or coercion,
which may stimulate mere compliance to achieve rewards to avoid punishment. 2) Anyone in
the organization may be well liked, irrespective of his or her other bases of power. Usually
causes commitment with employees. Usually causes commitment with boss’s demands.
! Expert power: Power derived from having special information or expertise that is valued by
the organization. We tend to be influenced by experts or by those who perform their jobs well.
Even lower level employees can acquire this power, especially in scientific and technical
areas. Usually causes commitment with boss’s demands.
How Do People Obtain Power – Doing the Right Things
! Extraordinary Activities: One would need excellent performance in unusual or non-routine
! Visible Activities: People who have an interest in power are especially good at identifying
visible activities and publicizing them.
! Relevant Activities: Extraordinary, visible work may fail to generate power if no one cares.
If nobody sees the work as relevant to the solution of important organizational problems, it
will not add to one’s influence.
Cultivating The Right People
! Outsiders: Establishing good relationships with key people outside one’s organization can
lead to increased power within organizations.
! Subordinates: An individual can gain influence if they are closely identified with certain up-
and-coming subordinates. Cultivating subordinate interests can also provide power when a
manager can demonstrate that he or she is backed by a cohesive team.
! Peers: Cultivating good relationships with peers is mainly a means of ensuring that nothing
gets in the way of one’s future acquisition of power.
! Superiors: Liaisons with key superiors probably represent the best way of obtaining power
through cultivating others.
! Empowerment: Giving people the authority, opportunity, and motivation to take initiative
and solve organizational problems. Having opportunity means you are free from bureaucratic
barriers and problems block you from taking action and also includes training about the
impact of one’s actions on other parts of the organization. Motivation means hiring people
that will be intrinsically motivated by power and opportunity and aligning extrinsic rewards
with successful performance. It fosters job satisfaction and high performance and puts power
where it’s needed to make an organization effective. Companies that provide specialized, and
personalized service should have empowered employees.
! Influence Tactics: Tactics that are used to convert power into actual influence over others.
Tactics include: Assertiveness, Ingratiation, Rationality, Exchange, Upward appeal, Coalition
formation. The tactic that you use depends on your bases of power and whom you are
! Not everyone has a high need for power. There are many instances of people who are high in
need for power and abuse it. McClelland argues that managers have 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. These managers are called
institutional mangers because they use their power for the good of the institution rather than
for their self needs. Institutional mangers are more effective than personal power managers,
who use their power for personal gain, and affiliative managers, who are more concerned with
being well liked.
Controlling Strategic contingencies – How Subunits Obtain Power
! Subunit power: The degree of power held by various organizational subunits, such as
departments. It could also refer to particular jobs. They obtain power by controlling strategic
! Strategic contingencies: Critical factors affecting organizational effectiveness that are
controlled by a key subunit. The work that other subunits perform is contingent on the
activities and performance of a key subunit. There is a role of dependence in power
relationships. Conditions under which subunits can control strategic contingencies:
! 1) Scarcity: Differences in subunit power are likely to be magnified when resources become
scarce. Subunits tend to acquire power when they are able to secure scarce resources that are
important to the organization as a whole.
! 2) Uncertainty: The subunits that are able to best cope with uncertainty will tend to acquire
! 3) Centrality: All else being equal, subunits whose activities are most central to the workflow
of the organization should acquire more power than those whose activities are more
peripheral. It also exists when a subunit has an especially crucial impact on the quantity of
quality of the organization’s key product or service. The activities are more central when their
impact is more immediate.
! 4) Substitutability: A subunit will have relatively little power if others inside or outside the
organization can perform its activities. If the labour market is constant, subunits whose staff is
highly trained in technical areas tend to be less substitutable than those which involve
minimal technical expertise. If work can be contracted out, the power of the subunit that
usually performs these activities is reduced.
! Organizational politics: The pursuit of self-interest in an organization, whether or not this
self-interest corresponds to organizational goals. 1) Political activity is self-conscious and
intentional. 2) Resistance is the idea that political influence would be countered by those with
different agendas. Means/ends matrix:
! 1)Sanctioned means/sanctioned ends: Here, power is used routinely to pursue agreed-on
goals. Familiar, accepted means of influence are employed to achieve sanctioned outcomes.
For example, a manager agrees to recommend a raise for an employee if she increases her net
sales by 30 percent in the next six months. No politics.
! 2) Sanctioned means/Unsanctioned ends: Acceptable means of influence are abused to
pursue goals that the organization does not approve. This is dysfunctional political behaviour.
! 3) Nonsanctioned means/sanctioned ends: Ends that are useful for the organization are
pursued through questionable means.
! 4) Nonsanctioned means/Nonsanctioned ends: Exemplifies the abuse of power, since
disapproved tactics are used to pursue disapproved outcomes.
! Political manoeuvring occurs among middle and upper management levels. Some subunits are
more prone to politicking than others. Some issues are more likely than others to stimulate
political activity. Scarce resources, uncertainty, and important issues provoke political
! Political Skill: The ability to understand others at work and to use that knowledge to
influence others to act in ways that enhance one’s personal or organizational objectives. There
are 4 facets to political skill:
! 1) Social astuteness: Good politicians are careful observers who are tuned in to others’ needs
and motives. They can “read” people and thus possess emotional intelligence.