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Chapter 10

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Human Resources
MHR 405
Lorne Hartman

Chapter 10 – Power and Influence The Meaning of Power • What Is Power? The capacity of a person, team, or organization to influence others. It is not the act of changing someone’s attitudes or behaviour; it is only the potential to do so. Power is based on the target’s perception that the powerholder controls a valuable resource that can help them achieve their goals. • Dependence Power involves asymmetric (unequal) dependence of one party on another party. Whatever the resource is, Person B is dependent of PersonA(the powerholder) to provide the resource so Person B can reach his or her goal.Although dependence is a key element of power relationships, we use the phrase “Asymmetric dependence” because the less powerful party still has some degree of power – called countervailing power – over the power holder. • Countervailing Power Countervailing power is the capacity of a person, team, or organization to keep a more powerful person or group in the exchange relationship. PersonAdominates the power relationship, but Person B has enough countervailing power to keep PersonAin the exchange relationship and ensure that person or department uses its dominant power thoughtfully. • Trust The power relationship depends on some minimum level of trust. Trust indicates a level of expectation that the more powerful party will deliver the resource. Sources of Power in Organizations John French and Bertrand Raven identified five sources of power found in organizations. Three sources of power – legitimate, reward, and coercive – originate from the powerholder’s formal position. Two other sources – expert and referent – originate from the powerholder’s own characteristics. • Legitimate Power - Formal Legitimate power is having the authority associated with a position or role. Legitimate power has restrictions; it only gives the powerholder the right to ask for a range of behaviours from others. This range – known as the “zone of indifference” – is the set of behaviours that individuals are willing to engage in at the other person’s request. People in high power distance cultures tend to have higher deference to authority compared to people with low power distance. Norm of reciprocity – a feeling of obligation to help someone who has helped you. It is a form of legitimate power. • Reward Power - Formal Reward power is the capacity to control rewards (tangible or intangible things that people want). Managers have reward power over their employees with pay, promotions, etc. Employees have reward power over their bosses through their feedback and ratings in 360-degree feedback systems. • Coercive – Formal Coercive power is the ability to apply punishment. It depends on fear and can be used by both managers and employees. • Expert Power – Informal Originates from within the powerholder. It is an individual’s or work unit’s capacity to influence others by possessing knowledge or skills valued by others. Expert power is similar to legitimate power because many people tend to follow the guidance of these experts without careful thought. An important form of expert power is the perceived ability to manage uncertainties in the business environment. Coping strategies include: Prevention – preventing environmental changes from occurring. Forecasting – predicting environmental changes or variations. Absorption – absorbing or neutralizing the impact of environmental shifts as they occur. • Referent/Charisma Power – Informal People have referent power when others identify with them, like them, or otherwise respect them. It is largely a function of the person’s interpersonal skills and tends to develop slowly. Referent power is associated with charisma – a form of interpersonal attraction whereby followers ascribe almost magical powers to the charismatic individual. Contingencies of Power Four important contingencies of power are substitutability, centrality, discretion, and visibility. • Substitutability Substitutability is a contingency of power referring to the availability of alternatives. Power decreases as the number of alternative sources of the critical resource increases. Nonsubstitutability is strengthened by controlling access to the resource and when people differentiate their resource from the alternatives. • Centrality Centrality is a contingency of power pertaining to the degree and nature of interdependence between the powerholder and others. Centrality increases with the number of people dependent on you. • Discretion The freedom to exercise judgement – to make decisions without referring to a specific rule or receiving permission from someone else – is another contingency of power. • Visibility Those who control valued resources or knowledge will yield power only when others are aware of these sources of power, in other words, when they are visible. One way to increase visibility is to take people-oriented jobs and work on projects that require frequent interaction with senior executives. Pretty much it’s a contingency of power that makes one standout. The Power of Social Networks Social networks – social structures of individuals or social units (e.g., departments, organizations) that are connected to each other through one or more forms of interdependence. Employees are more likely to form networks with co-workers that are located near them, relatives or neighbors. • Social Capital and Sources of Power Social networks generate power through social capital. Social capital is
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