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Chapter 12

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Queen's University
COMM 151
Christopher Miners

COMM 151 – Chapter 12 Notes – Power, Politics, and Ethics What is Power?  It is the capacity to influence others who are in a state of dependence  Power is not always perceived or exercised  The fact that the target of power is dependent on the power-holder does not imply that there is a poor relationship between the two people  Power can flow can flow in any direction in org depending on who has info  Power is a broad concept that applies to both individuals and groups The Bases of Individual Power Legitimate Power  This is power derived from a person’s position /job in an org  Orgs differ in the extent to which they emphasize/reinforce legitimate power  One extreme (military)– many levels of command, differentiating uniforms, and rituals, all designed to emphasize legitimate power  Other end (universities) – tend to downplay differences in the legitimate power of lecturers, professors, chair-people, and deans  When legit power works, it often does so because people have been socialized to accept its influence  parents, teachers, law enforcers  Legitimate power is often cited as a main reason why employees listen to bosses Reward Power  Power derived from the ability to provide positive outcomes/prevent negative ones  In general, it corresponds to positive reinforcement from chapter 2  Reward power often backs up legitimate power – managers can recommend raises, do performance evaluations, and assign preferred task to employees Coercive Power  Power derived from the use of punishment or threat – also a support to legitimate  Managers might be able to dock pay, assign unfavourable tasks, or block promos  When managers use coercive power, it is generally ineffective and can provoke considerable employee resistance  no one likes being treated like this  Might make people productive at first but eventually people will burn out or hate the situation so much that they’ll want to leave (reduced productivity) Referent Power  Power derived from being well liked by others – people we like readily influence us  We are prone to consider their points of view, ignore failures, seek their approval, and use them as role models  It is especially potent for two reasons  It stems from identification with the power-holder & thus represents a truer or deeper base of power than reward or coercion  Anyone in the org can be well liked and thus have referent power Expert Power  Power derived from having special info or expertise that is valued by an org  The more crucial and unusual this expertise is, the greater is the expert power  In other words, expert power corresponds to difficulty and replacement  This, along with referent power are most likely to generate true commitment and enthusiasm (by employees/other people) for the manager’s agenda COMM 151 – Chapter 12 Notes – Power, Politics, and Ethics How do People Obtain Power? Doing the Right Things Extraordinary Activities  Excellent performance of routine activities might not be enough to obtain power  Excellent performance in unusual and non-routine activities is what you need  Occupying new positions, managing substantial changes, and taking risks Visible Activities  Even extraordinary activities will fail to generate power if no one knows about them  You need to identify visible activities and publicize them Relevant Activities  Extraordinary & visible work may still not get you power if no one cares about it  If the work is not relevant to the solution of org’s problems, it will have no influence Cultivating the Right People  “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – has some truth in this gaining power  Developing relationships with the right people can prove useful in this respect Outsiders  Establishing good relationships with key people outside one’s org can lead to increased power within the organization  Sometimes this power is merely a reflection of the status of the outsider – if you know the CEO of TD bank, that sheds a light on you and your influence  Knowing people that are on a Board of Directors might give you important info on business conditions that no one else in your firm has but you  you’re important Subordinates  An individual can gain influence if he/she is closely identified with certain up-an-
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