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TheMeaningofPower
LO1
Poweristhecapacityofaperson,team,ororganizationtoinfluenceothers.2Thereareafew
importantfeaturesofthisdefinition.First,powerisnottheactofchangingsomeone'sattitudesor
behaviouritisonlythepotentialtodoso.Peoplefrequentlyhavepowertheydonotusetheymight
notevenknowtheyhavepower.Second,powerisbasedonthetarget'sperceptionthatthepower
holdercontrols(i.e.,possesses,hasaccessto,orregulates)avaluableresourcethatcanhelpthem
achievetheirgoals.3Peoplemightgeneratepowerbyconvincingothersthattheycontrolsomething
ofvalue,whetherornottheyactuallycontrolthatresource.Thisperceptionisalsoformedfromthe
powerholder'sbehaviourassomeonewhoisnotswayedbyauthorityornorms.Forinstance,one
recentstudyfoundthatpeopleareperceivedasmorepowerfuljustbytheirbehaviour,suchasputting
theirfeetonatable.4Toillustrate,BrunoIksil,thedisgracedformerstartraderatJPMorgan's
Londonofficeknownforhisaggressivetradingstyle,apparentlycreatedanimageofpowerby
dressingmorecasuallythanotherstaff.However,powerisnotapersonalfeelingofpower.Youmight
feelpowerfulorthinkyouhavepoweroverothers,butthisisnotpowerunlessothersbelieveyou
havethatcapacity.
Third,powerinvolvesasymmetric(unequal)dependenceofonepartyonanotherparty.5This
dependentrelationshipisillustratedinExhibit10.1.ThelinefromPersonBtothegoalshowsthat
he/shebelievesPersonAcontrolsaresourcethatcanhelporhinderPersonAinachievingthatgoal.
PersonAthepowerholderinthisillustrationmighthavepoweroverPersonBbycontrollinga
desiredjobassignment,usefulinformation,rewards,oreventheprivilegeofbeingassociatedwith
himorher!Forexample,ifyoubelieveacoworkerhasexpertise(theresource)thatwould
substantiallyhelpyoutowriteabetterreport(yourgoal),thenthatcoworkerhassomepowerover
youbecauseyouvaluethatexpertisetoachieveyourgoal.Whatevertheresourceis,PersonB
perceivesadependenceonPersonA(thepowerholder)toprovidetheresourcesoPersonBcanreach
his/hergoal.

EXHIBIT10.1DependenceinthePowerRelationship

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EXHIBIT10.1
DependenceinthePowerRelationship
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Althoughdependenceisakeyelementofpowerrelationships,weusethephraseasymmetric
dependencebecausethelesspowerfulpartystillhassomedegreeofpowercalledcountervailing
poweroverthepowerholder.InExhibit10.1,PersonAdominatesthepowerrelationship,but
PersonBhasenoughcountervailingpowertokeepPersonAintheexchangerelationshipandimpact
howthepowerisused.Forexample,althoughmanagershavepoweroversubordinatesinmanyways
(e.g.,controllingjobsecurity,preferredworkassignments),employeeshavecountervailingpowerby
possessingskillsandknowledgetokeepproductionhummingandcustomershappy,somethingthat
managementcan'taccomplishalone.
Finally,thepowerrelationshipdependsonsomeminimumleveloftrust.Trustindicatesalevelof
expectationthatthemorepowerfulpartywilldelivertheresource.Forexample,youtrustyour
employertogiveyouapaychequeattheendofeachpayperiod.Eventhoseinextremelydependent
situationswillusuallywalkawayfromtherelationshipiftheylackaminimumleveloftrustinthe
morepowerfulparty.
Let'slookatthispowerdependencemodelintheemployeemanagerrelationship.Youdependon
yourbossforsupportingyourcontinuedemployment,satisfactoryworkarrangements,andother
valuedresources.Atthesametime,yourmanagerdependsonyoutocompleterequiredtasksandto
workeffectivelywithothersinthecompletionoftheirwork.Managers(andthecompaniesthey
represent)typicallyhavemorepower,whereasemployeeshaveweakercountervailingpower.But
sometimesemployeesdohavethestrongerpowerbaseintherelationship.Noticethatthestrengthof
yourpowerintheemployeemanagerrelationshipdoesn'tdependonyouractualcontrolovervalued
resourcesitdependsontheperceptionsthatyourbossandothershaveaboutthisresourcecontrol.
Finally,trustisanessentialingredientinthisrelationship.Evenwithstrongpower,theemployee
managerrelationshipcomesapartwhenonepartynolongersufficientlytruststheother.
Thedependencemodelrevealsonlythecorefeaturesofpowerdynamicsbetweenpeopleandwork
unitsinorganizations.Wealsoneedtolearnaboutthespecificsourcesofpowerandcontingencies
thatallowthatpowertobeappliedeffectivelyasinfluence.AsExhibit10.2illustrates,poweris
derivedfromfivesources:legitimate,reward,coercive,expert,andreferent.Themodelalsoidentifies
fourcontingenciesofpower:theemployee'sordepartment'ssubstitutability,centrality,discretion,and
visibility.Overthenextfewpages,wewilldiscusseachofthesesourcesandcontingenciesofpower
inthecontextoforganizations.

EXHIBIT10.2SourcesandContingenciesofPower

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EXHIBIT10.2
SourcesandContingenciesofPower

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