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Dr Alf Crossman

Advanced Organzation Theory

Power and Politics Organization Theory

Key Areas of Focus

Democracy and the Iron Law of Oligarchy
Robert Michels

Power in organizations
John French and Bertram Raven James March Rosabeth Moss Kanter Henry Mintzberg Don Hellriegel and John Slocum Power as property Jeffrey Pfeffer Power and personality Niccolo Machiaveli David Maclelland Julian Rotter
Advanced Organzation Theory

Session Objectives
To understand the concept of power To distinguish between power and authority To understand the bases of social power To recognize the property concept of power To understand the nexus between power and personality

Advanced Organzation Theory

Evolution of Organization Theory







Source: Doherty, J. P., Surles, R. C. and Donovan, C. M. (2001) Organization Theory, in Talbott, J. A. and Hales, R. E. (Eds) A Textbook of Administrative Psychiatry, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Publishing Inc, 40

Advanced Organization Theory

The Iron Law of Oligarchy

Who says organization, says oligarchy.

Robert Michels

According to Michels thesis: Bureaucracy happens. If bureaucracy happens, power rises. Power corrupts [1]. An organization has to create a bureaucracy in order to maintain its efficiency as it becomes larger. Many decisions have to be made daily that cannot be made by large numbers of disorganized people. For the organization to function effectively, centralization has to occur and power will end up in the hands of a few. Those fewthe oligarchywill use all means necessary to preserve and further increase their power.

[1] Source: Leach, D.K. (2005) The Iron Law of What Again? Conceptualizing Oligarchy Across Organizational Forms, Sociological Theory, 23 (3), pp. 312-337.

Advanced Organzation Theory

The Iron Law of Oligarchy

Democracy will fail for four reasons Concentration of power at the top Incompetence of the masses Divergence of interests Socialism an administrative problem

Robert Michels

Advanced Organzation Theory

Power versus Authority

Group Consensus Authority Structure Group Compliance Power Structure
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Authority System
Group Goal Pursuit

Power System
Differential Goal Pursuit

Source: Buckley, W. (1967) Sociology and Modern Systems Theory, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.

Theories of Authority

Formal Theory of Authority

Acceptance Theory of Authority

Advanced Organzation Theory

Power, Authority and Organizational Politics

Ambiguous and ubiquitous; relative, not absolute. A person is only powerful in relation to others.

When the distribution of power in a social setting is accepted or legitimised by the other actors.

Jeffrey Pfeffer

Action taken to overcome resistance to ones preferred outcomes. A conscious effort to muster and use force to overcome opposition.

Source: Pfeffer, J. (1981) Power in Organizations, Marshfield, MA, Pitman.

Advanced Organzation Theory

Power and Decision Making

Decision Making Models
Rational Choice Model
Goals/objectives; rational choice; assessment of outcomes; decision.

Bureaucratic Model
Rules-based, following previously adapted and effective processes.

Decision Process Model

Similar to bureaucratic model; presumption that policy is an outcome of choice. Processes precede choice. Power not significant in choices.

Political Model
Pluralistic and democratic. Bargaining/compromise to overcome inter-group conflict. More powerful groups get the better deal. Source: Pfeffer, J. (1981) Power in Organizations, Marshfield, MA, Pitman.


Advanced Organzation Theory

The Power of Power

Models of Social Choice and the Concept of 1. Chance models: choice is a chance event an Power
independent of power 2. Basic force models: choice being a direct result of power exerted in the system 3. Force activation models: not all power of every component in the system is exerted at all times
James March

4. Force-conditioning models: power of the components is modified as a result of previous outcomes/choices 5. Force depletion models: power of components is modified as a result of exertion of power in past choices 6. Process models: choice is substantially independent of power but not a chance event


Source: March, J. G. (1966) The power of power, in Easton, D. (ed) Varieties of Political Theory, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.

Advanced Organzation Theory

The Three Temptations of Power

The extent to which we have used the concept of power fruitlessly is symptomatic of three unfortunate temptations.
1. The Obviousness of Power: The tendency to reify power, to grant it reality status on the basis of our own social conditioning to accept that power exists. 3. The Residual Variance: The second corollary is the tendency to give any unexplained variance in behaviour a name Gods will, power, personality, extrasensory perception. 2. The Importance of Measurement: The first corollary of the obviousness of power is the tendency to look at how we measure power, rather than why should power be measured at all.
Advanced Organzation Theory


Source: March, J. G. (1966) The power of power, in Easton, D. (ed) Varieties of Political Theory, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.

Power Lines
Three lines of power
Lines of Supply Lines of Information
To be in the know, formally and informally
Advanced Organzation Theory

Outward influence over environmental issues Ability to obtain resources

Lines of Support
Rosabeth Moss Kanter Formal: freedom to act without multi-layered approval Informal: tacit support of other figures in the organization

Source: Kanter, R. M. (1979) Power failure in management circuits, Harvard business Review, Jul-Aug).

Power Failure
First-line supervisors

Close supervision. Do it oneself, blocking subordinates development and information. Resistant subordinates. Turf protection, information control Conservatism, resistance to change. Short-term focus. Top-down communications. Nepotism; retreat to the comfort of like-minded colleagues/lieutenants.

Routine, rules-minded. Limited lines of information. Limited advancement prospects. Routine task seen as peripheral to real tasks Retreat into professionalism. Easy replacement by external experts. Uncontrollable lines of supply. Limited/blocked lines of communication. Diminished lines of support
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Staff professionals

Top executives


Source: Kanter, R. M. (1979) Power failure in management circuits, Harvard business Review, Jul-Aug).

The Game of Power

Exit, Voice and Loyalty Individual choice
Advanced Organzation Theory

Exit Give up and leave the organization Pick up by ball and go Voice Stay and try to change the system Rather fight than switch Loyalty: Stay and contribute to the system Dont rock the boat
Source: Mintzberg, H. (1983) Power in and Around Organizations, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.

Albert Hirschmann


The Game of Power

Prime bases of power
1. Resource 2. Technical skill 3. Body of knowledge

Must be essential
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Must be concentrated Must be nonsubstitutable

General bases of power

4. Formal power 5. Reciprocity Organization power comprises reciprocal and dependency relations


Source: Mintzberg, H. (1983) Power in and Around Organizations, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.

The Game of Power and Politics: Coalitions

External Coalitions
1. Owners 5. Directors

Internal Coalitions
6. Top/General management 7. Operators 8. Line managers 9. Technostructure analysts 10. Support staff
Advanced Organzation Theory

2. Associates 3. Employee associations 4. Public

11. Organization ideology

Source: Mintzberg, H. (1983) Power in and Around Organizations, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall.


Bases of Social Power

Reward power Ability to reward Coercive power Ability to punish Legitimate power Cultural values Referent power Feelings of oneness Expert power Expertise/knowledge -

Perception Piece-work rate Perception Dismissal Perception Military Identification Hippies/gangs Perception Lawyers

French, J. R. P. and Raven, B. H. (1959) The bases of social power, in Cartwright, D. (ed) Studies in Social Power, Ann Arbor, Michigan: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan Press, 150-167.


Advanced Organzation Theory

Typology of Power and Influence

Normative Influence
Reward Power

Informational Influence
Expert Power
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Coercive Power

Referent Power

Legitimate Power

Informational Power 19

Source: DeZoort, F. T. and Lord, A. T. (1994) An investigation of pressure effects on auditors judgements, Behavioural Research in Accounting (6) Supplement, 1-30.

Knowledge is Power
Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est


Advanced Organzation Theory

Power as organisational property

Dependency Creation
Financial Resources
Advanced Organzation Theory

Centrality of Activities

Organisational Power


Uncertainty reduction

Source: Buchanan, D. A. and Huczynski, A. J. (2010) Organizational Behaviour, Harlow, Pearson Education, p.699.

Power Enhancement and Challenge

Organisation power
Structure Policies and rules Recruitment and training Rewards and punishments Budgets Machinery and technology
Source: Hellriegel, D. and Slocum, J. W. (1978 Management: Contingency Approaches, Reading, MA, AddisonWesley.

Challenge to power
Individual Exit Sabotage Malicious compliance Collective Voice Collective bargaining Industrial action

Power and Personality

Locus of control
Internals: controlled by self, political in nature, less influenced by others.
Externals: believe their lives and fate is controlled by others, less political
Source: Rotter, J. (1966) Generalized expectations for internal versus external control of reinforcement, Psychological Monographs, 80 (609), 1-28.

People culturally acquire three types of need

Need for power Need for achievement nPow nAch
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Need for affiliation


In any individual the strength of these needs vary.

Source: McClelland, D. (1961) The Achieving Society, Princeton, NJ, Van Nostrand Rheingold.


Power and Personality

The Prince is a lesson in statecraft; it offers advice on how a ruler should best preserve his power, conduct warfare and maintain his reputation.
Machiavellian characteristics Preferred to be feared rather than liked Manipulation of others Use of deceit in relationships Engage in unethical behaviour Believe that any end justifies the means

Niccolo Machiavelli

Source: Machiavelli, N. (2004) The Prince, London, Collectors Library.

Advanced Organzation Theory


Advanced Organzation Theory