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Working Matters V O LU M E 1 , I SS U E 2

A P R I L 2 , 2 0 09

Absolute Power Issue

I N S ID E T H I S I S S U E :

What Is Power? - part 1 What Is Power 1

Sources of Power 2
“Power is always danger- While we all have our own are applied to everything
ous. Power attracts the personal perceptions of our from building high perform- Consequences of Power 3
worst and corrupts the power, these percep-
best.” tions may or may not
Edward Abbey be accurate or dis- Power & Politics 4
torted. Plus don’t
forget that, people
Whether we like it or not, may also have power Managing Power 5
power plays an important they are not aware of
role in the workplace and or do not use.
motion picture industry is
certainly no different. We Power is not a per-
are all aware of power, but sonal feeling of
what is power and how power. A person
does it affect our working might feel powerful
lives? or think they have
power over someone
else, but this is not
What is power? power unless you
Power in the workplace is actually have the
generally defined at “the capacity to influence What is the definition of power?
capacity of a person, team or that person. The
organization to influence ability to influence is S E L F RE F L E C T IO N ?
others”. the key to the definition of ance teams to developing AFTER READING THIS
power. bullying and harassment A R T I C LE , M A Y B E J O T -
It is well worth having a policies and proceeding with TING DOWN SOME IDEAS
basic understanding of In organizational behavior, human rights litigation or FOR YOURSELF WILL BE
power in the workplace in very quickly the topic and arbitrations. HELPFUL.
order to successfully navi- definition of power becomes
gate the complex world of vitally important and com- • How does your power
human interactions in pro- plex when applied to human definition differ? Part 1
duction. interaction in the workplace.
Today power classifications • What are your sources of
power? Part 2

• What consequences have

Sources of Power? - part 2 you experienced with the
use of power in the work-
place? Part 3

legitimate, reward and coer- The two other sources of • How has politics effected
So what are these
cive originate mostly from defined power – expert and your workplaces? Part 4
sources of power?
the power-holders formal referent – originate from the
Power derives from several power-holders own charac- • How can you help man-
position or informal role.
sources and a few contin- teristics and are brought to age the political climate
gencies that determine the The person is granted these in your workplace?
power bases formally by the the organization, rather than
potential of those power being provided by the or- Part 5
sources. organization or informally
by co-workers. ganization.
Three sources of power –
PAGE 2 V O LU M E 1 , I SS U E 2

Power Sources continued

Legitimate Power – based on the posi- Referent – is based on your personal
tion or role one holds. It is an agreement traits and qualities which attract people
among organizational members that to want to align with you, because they
people in certain roles can request cer- chose to identify with
tain behaviors of others. This perceived and respect you.
right originates from formal job descrip-
tions as well informal rules of conduct.

Reward Power – is based on the ability

of a person to control the allocation of
rewards values by others.

Coercive Power – is based on the abil-

ity of a person to punish reprimand,
dismiss, retaliate or intimidate.

Expert Power – is based on the posses-

sion of expertise, skills, and knowledge. The Greek God Atlas—an exam-
ple of Zeus using coercive power.

Consequences of Power—Part 3
What are some consequences of viduals effectiveness and interpersonal gage in more automatic behaviour than
power? relations. Some studies have shown that mindful thinking. This is possibly as a
people who believe they have (or do result of the powerful individual being
Under the right conditions, employees have) more power than others can be less concerned about the consequences
who receive more power feel more likely to of their actions.
empowered. This empower- have difficulty
ment tends to increase em- empathizing
ployee job satisfaction, organ- Powerful individuals are less and are more
izational commitment and, likely to cling
job performance and em- concerned about the
to stereotypes
ployee motivation. consequences of their and attribution
errors. They
On the other hand, increasing actions. are also more
power over others can poten- likely to en-
tially undermine and indi-

Power and Politics—part 4

Power & Politics knowledge of rules. This oc-
curs when decision makers are
given more discretion over
Yes, even in organizational behaviour
resources allocation, so poten-
power and politics are mentioned in the
tial recipients use political
same breath.
tactics to influence the factors
Organizational politics is often known that should be considered in the
as “office politics” or in our cases “set decision.
politics”, “shop politics”, “circus poli-
tics” and last but not least “lunch line

These political behaviours flourish No one is immune from the

when resource allocation decisions are effects power and politics
ambiguous, complex or lack formal and

Managing Power—part 5
Managing organizational • Leaders need to become role models
of organizational citizenship rather
politics and power:
than symbols of successful organiza-
The conditions which create and fuel tional politicians.
organizational politics ~ also, gra- • Give employees more con-
ciously, provide us some clues on how trol over their work
to manage and control dysfunctional
• Keep employees informed
politics and their behaviours.
of organizational events.
Here are some ideas and strategies to Research has found that em-
help manage power in the workplace: ployees who are kept in-
formed of what is going on in
• Introduce clear rules and regulations
the organization and who are
to specify the use of scarce resources.
involved in organizational
• During periods of change – use and decisions are less likely to
implement effective organizational experience organizational
change practices. politics; resulting in less job
stress, less job dissatisfaction
• Leaders need to actively manage and and less absenteeism and ill-
If left unmanaged, organizational politics can
curtail self-serving influence activi- have disastrous effects.

Beck, D., & Cowan C. (1996) Spiral French and Raven, The Bases of Social
Dynamics: mastering values, leadership Power; in D. Cartwright & A. Zander
and change; exploring the new science Group Dynamics. New York, New
of memetics. Cambridge, Mass: Black- York: Harper and Row
well Publishing

McShane, S.L., (2009) Canadian Or-

Fogel, M., (2003) Mediation III. New ganizational Behaviour, Toronto, Ont,:
Westminster, BC: Center for Conflict McGraw-Hill Ryerson
Resolution, Justice Institute of British

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