Power in Organisations

ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR Question: Richard Nixon wrote, “The great leader needs the capacity to achieve ….. Power is the opportunity to build, to create, to nudge history in a different direction” Discuss the above quotation and its relevance to acquisition and use of the traditional and managerial power bases within organisations POWER IN ORGANISATIONS Richard Nixon wrote, “The great leader needs the capacity to achieve……. Power is the opportunity to build, to create, to nudge history in a different direction”. In order to appreciate the above quotation, one must understand what is meant by the word “leader”.

A leader is a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal. Leadership is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. Building on Nixon’s quote however, power is referred to as the capacity that person A has to influence the behaviour of person B so that B acts in accordance with A’s wishes (Robbins & Judge). Leadership and power are closely intertwined and leaders use their power as a means of attaining organisational and group goals. In order to achieve these goals, power is the means in which it can be attainted. “Power is the ability to create…… in order to create history – a person must be able influence people so as to achieve goals. Not only that, the individual must be in a position of power to do so. Power is not really about achieving goals but merely about dependency and dependency is probably the most important aspect of power. The greater dependence person B has, person A has more ‘power’ over the other. In organisations, there will always be those that want power, have power and go to great lengths to get it. For example, an employee in the Human Resource department sees the need to have more training in lets say – Industrial Relations.

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The employee has to go to his/or her boss to get the approval for this training. The employee has to depend on the Human Resources Manager to give consent to have the employee trained. The employee is dependent on the manager. Where did the power come from? What is it that gives an individual or a group influence over others? In Organisational Behaviour, it is called Bases of Power. There are two types – Formal Power and Personal power. Persons in organisation acquire power in different ways. In Organisational Behaviour it further explains in more specifics – “Formal Power “or “Personal Power”.

Formal Power is based on where an individual’s position is in an organisation. You can apply this power in different ways: Coercive power – This type of power is dependent on fear. This is because the result is the fear of negative results that may occur if the person fails to comply. Coercive power can cause unhealthy behaviour and dissatisfaction in the workplace. For example: If a manager can fire, suspend or demote an employee, the manager has coercive power over the employee because the employee values his job. Reward power – this is the opposite of coercive power.

In organisations employees will comply with the wishes of the boss because in doing so produces positive benefits which is perceived by the employees as valuable to them. The manager has reward power over them. Some examples of different types of rewards can be bonuses, pay raises, promotions, preferred work shifts or sales territories. In organisations, the most frequent access to power is a person’s structural position (job title) and this represents the formal authority to control and use on the job. This type of power base is called – Legitimate Power.

Persons like policemen/or policewomen, company CEO’s, the Commissioner of Police or Coast Guard Captain etc speaks from a position of authority, and people usually listen to them. So, sometimes people in authority have to make decision that others are not in agreement with but it must be followed. It can surely create or nudge history into a different direction. Let’s look at some other types of power in a different form. Personal Power – this kind of power does not necessarily come from your position in the company but the personal unique characteristics that one possesses.

For example, if you were a specialist in the armed forces then you will possess some skills that others would not have. These skills did not come overnight. It probably took years of training both body and mind. Another example is an IT Manager – this calls for specialised expertise in the field of technology. Those working at Microsoft or Intel have Expert Power, also a doctor who has trained for years to develop his/her skills and because of this, persons follow their advice. They wield power as a result of their expertise. Another power base is Referent Power.

This is derived from personal traits or desirable resources. An example is persons who are Basketball or Football players. People look up to them as role models and admire them. People tend to imitate them or want to be like them. It has been researched that personal sources of power are most effective in organisations and relates to employee satisfaction. Remember, power can only function from a dependence situation when resources are scarce, important or you cannot substitute it. Let me give some examples of some power tactics people display in organisations in order to get action.

Rational persuasion -logical arguments and facts Personal appeal – Ask for compliance based on friendship or loyalty Pressure – Giving warning letters, or threats Whatever power you have in your organisation, use it wisely or it can backfire on you. We all have some type of power, be it in the office or at home. A word to the wise – power is a two way street and employees and peers will be seeking to make you dependent on them. References: Judge, Stephen P. & Robbins, Timothy A. (2007). Organizational Behavior, Twelfth Edition. Prentice Hall. Wilde, S. (1983). Miracles. Carson.

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