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16 May 2011

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Chapter 12- Power, Politics and Ethics
I. What Is Power?
Power-the capacity to influence others who are in a state of dependence
does not necessarily imply that a poor relationship exists between the power holder and the
target, as most friendships involve reciprocal influence processes.
Power can flow in any direction in an organization, although members at higher levels
typically have more power. Power is a broad concept that applies to individuals as well as to
II. The Bases of Individual Power
Power can be found in the position that you occupy in the organization or the resources that
you are able to command
Legitimate power is dependent on one's position or job
The other bases (reward, coercion, referent, and expert power) involve the control of
important resources.
A. Legitimate Power
Legitimate power-derives from a person's position or job in the organization
constitutes the organization's judgment about who is formally permitted to influence whom,
and it is often called authority
As we move up the organization's hierarchy, we find that members possess more and more
legitimate power
Organizational equals (all VPs) have equal legitimate power; but some are more likely to
evoke their power than others
Ie. Military have many levels of command to emphasize legitimate power, but uni profs do not
use their powers that much, and downplay their power
Legitimate power works b/c ppl have been socialized to accept its influence
Legitimate power works because people have been socialized to accept its influence
Even across various cultures, employees cite legitimate power as a major reason for following
their boss's directions.
B. Reward Power
Reward power-exists when the power holder can exert influence by providing positive
outcomes and preventing negative outcomes
It corresponds to the concept of positive reinforcement
It is often used to back up legitimate power
Managers are given chances to recommend raises, do performance evaluations and assign
preferred tasks to employees
C. Coercive Power
Coercive power -available when the power holder can exert influence by the use of
punishment and threat
A support for legitimate power
Although it too is employed as a support for legitimate power, its use by managers is
generally ineffective and can provoke employee resistancelike punishment
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D. Referent Power
Referent power-exists when the power holder is well liked by others
Ppl we like readily influence us ie our friends, and we are prone to consider their points of
It is strong because it stems from identification with the power holder and represents a truer
or deeper base of power than reward or coercion
anyone in the organization may possess referent power
this power is available to anyone from janitor to prez
E. Expert Power
Expert power- derived from having special information or expertise that is valued by an
the more crucial and unusual this expertise, the greater is the expert power available
can be obtained by lower-level organizational members and is especially likely to exist for
those members in scientific and technical areas b/c the young ones are more updated
Of all the bases of power, expertise is most consistently associated with employee
Employees perceive women managers as more likely than male managers to be high on
expert power.
Employees will respond differently to the bases of power
Coercion is likely to produce resistance and lack of cooperation
Legitimate power and reward power are likely to produce compliance with the bosss wishes
Referent and expert power are most likely to generate true commitment and enthusiasm for
the managers agenda
Employees Response to Power
Employees are likely to have the following response to each base of power:
oCoercive power Resistance
oReward power Compliance
oLegitimate power Compliance
oExpert power Commitment
oReferent power Commitment
III. How Do People Obtain Power?
People get power by doing the right things and cultivating the right people.
A. Doing the Right Things
Activities lead to power when they are extraordinary, highly visible, and especially
relevant to the solution of organizational problems.
Extraordinary Activities
Excellent performance in unusual or nonroutine activities is required to obtain power
Such activities include occupying new positions, managing substantial changes, and taking
great risks
Ie : the manager who establishes and directs a new customer service program if successful,
manager should acquire substantial power
Visible Activities
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Extraordinary activities will fail to generate power if no one knows about them
people who seek power must try to publicize their efforts and ensure that they are visible
ie: marketing executives philosophy profiled in Fortune will gain more power
Relevant Activities
Extraordinary, visible work may fail to generate power if no one cares
Activities must be relevant to the needs of the organization for power to accrue
being in the right place at the right time and doing the right things are important in the
effort to gain power
B. Cultivating the Right People
To obtain power, one must develop informal relationships with the right people
The right people can include organizational subordinates, peers, and superiors as well as
crucial outsiders.
Establishing good relationships with key people outside one's organization can lead to
increased power within the organization
Cultivating outsider may also contribute to more tangible sources of power
Organizational members who are on the boards of directs of other companies might acquire
critical info about business conditions that they can use in their own firms
An individual can gain influence if she is closely identified with certain up-and-coming
Subordinates can also provide power when a manager can demonstrate that he or she is
backed by a cohesive team
Cultivating subordinate interests can also provide power when a manager can demonstrate
that they are backed by a cohesive team
Cultivating good relationships with peers is mainly a means of ensuring that nothing
gets in the way of one's future acquisition of power
As one moves up through the ranks, favours can be asked of former associates
Liaisons with key superiors probably represent the best way of obtaining power through
cultivating others
Mentors, for example, can provide special information and useful introductions to other
"right people."
IV. Empowerment Putting Power Where It Is Needed
Power need not be seen as something of fixed quantity which must necessarily be in short
supply at the bottom of the organization if it is largely held at the top
Empowerment-gives people the authority, opportunity, and motivation to take initiative
and solve organizational problems
Having the authority to solve an organizational problem means having legitimate power
Authority comes from pushing legitimate power down to lower levels so that decisions can be
made by those with the information to make them
Opportunity means freedom from bureaucratic barriers and any relevant training and
information about the impact of one's actions on other parts of the organization
The motivation part of empowerment works when people are intrinsically motivated by power
and opportunity and see their rewards linked to their performance
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