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Reflections

Managing with Power


1. “A mistake that nearly everyone makes is to choose money over power. Money is the big mansion that starts to fall
apart in ten years, power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.” – House of Cards, TV Show
2. We studied about ‘Managing with Power’ in this session using the Skylab case study. In this case study, the ground
staff tried to exercise too much power on the Skylab 3 astronauts, by setting up a tight schedule, demanding too many
tasks and eventually not providing them enough time for themselves. When the Skylab 3 astronauts realized that there
is no way they could convince the ground staff to reduce the work load, they went on strike and cut off all channels of
communications. We learnt that when the powerful exercise too much power and leave no option for the powerless, the
result is a mutiny.
3. We see such situation in day today life as well as in our offices. When a manager asks a team member to complete a
piece of work before the latter leaves for the day, but this being asked too frequently by the supervisor, one day the team
member refuses to obey. Here the manager’s attempt to influence has failed. The team member might be afraid of his
wrath. There has been a change in the team member’s feeling; but this was not the change that the manager had attempted
to make. I think the way power can be defined is that it is one’s capacity to influence. Further, by influence I mean the
process to change other’s thoughts, emotions or actions. A successful influence can be called as a control over others’
behavior to achieve the desired outcomes.
4. Gene Sharp proposes that no ruler can rule without the support of the ruled. If the ruled collectively withdrew their
support – that is, they refuse to comply by an unjust law – the ruler will probably be compelled to concede or else
attempt to intimidate the resisters with violence. Gandhiji, in the freedom movement, exercised non-violence as a tool
in his fight against the Britishers. While he asked fellow countrymen to exercise non-cooperation in a non-violent way,
the violent reaction from the Britishers often helped Indians to further unite. A visible violence by those in power will
be counter-productive. Hanna Arendt says, “Power and violence are opposites, where one rules absolutely, the other
is absent”.
5. In my organization, we saw high attrition during the phase when my company started giving pink slips to seniors for a
brief period. Probably, the employees were trying to communicate that they were not happy with such a decision. They
almost revolted. My company had to withdraw the decision and additionally had to spend a lot to recover from the bad
press it earned.
6. We have also seen in our organization and its portal; organizational charts are present to display organizational
hierarchy. I feel this is to convey who has the authority over whom.
7. I have seen people in my organization who feel fully in control of themselves and their work, like they can help their
children in studies, fix their cars, make the project report and present it to senior management. I feel, such people are
very strongly driven by the belief that they are the masters of their destiny. On the other hand, I have also seen people
in my organization who want to feel powerful rather than attain power to influence others. Because of no strong reason
for attaining power, for them many a times, such a wish remains a wish.
8. We find in our day to day lives, that every individual has her own interests. Someone wants a larger control over the
team, someone wants a larger team to increase her influence, someone is looking for increased compensation, someone
is looking for decreased working hours, while someone else is looking for promotion. Due to a variety of these interests,
for the same organizational goal, different individuals may have different thought process and approach. This leads to
conflicts in an organization. Behind every organizational goal, the team involved to achieve the goal may have internal
differences. Coming back to the case, we have seen, that both the ground staff and the Skylab 3 crew were trying to
achieve the common organizational goal of completing the mission successfully, however these groups at their own
level had different interests. We also saw that in this mission, Skylab 3 crew members collaborated to help each other.
Thus, we can say that what we learnt from the case was that people with similar interests collaborate to help each other
in attaining some of their interests.
9. In my role as the development lead, I have often seen requests coming from team members for onsite opportunities.
While this is understandable, the individuals are briefed at the time of induction that this is an India location job. I have
been dealing with them rather coldly while dealing with their onsite requests. As a result, may developers who aspired
for onsite opportunities have left the organization. After going through the case, my perspective has changed. As the
learning says that if the powerful exercises too much power the result is a mutiny. Probably their leaving the job is an
indication that they don’t agree with my decision. As a result, after this class, my dealing with such situation would
change. I will try to negotiate onsite position with other projects and on meeting certain criteria, individuals will be
eligible for the onsite position. The final decision on who travels would however rest on the client.
10. I have observed that power influences who gets what, when and how. In my organization, conflict will arise when
interests of two groups collide. Senior management in such cases intervenes. They have the power over both the groups.
Thus, we can infer that power is the means through which conflicts can be resolved.
11. We have seen in every organization, power centers would develop over a period, with each power center commanding
some level of power through some source. Sometimes these centers could just be individuals. People play political
games to win over a power center. Example: Politicians belonging to one political party may extend support to a bill
which they care less about in leu of the support from the other party for a bill which they care about. Politics, therefore,
is the struggle of these power centers to influence a decision. Depending upon different interests that these political
centers may have, different information that they may poses, different levels of tolerance for change that they
demonstrate, they may or may not support a proposal for a change.
12. I have also seen that where there are power centers, there is politics. Different powerful individuals or groups bring
different experiences. Though often not a much-revered word, politics may sometimes help leaders to assess their
position vis-à-vis a strategic change. This is beneficial to the organization as it may help them to arrive at strategic
alternatives. Therefore, we find that even though organizational politics may be disruptive and time taking, yet it helps
organizations to resolve difference of opinions through meaningful debates and often ends up giving more options to
organizations. What I also feel is that given a political framework within the organization which helps to avoid endless
discussions and to avoid situation getting transformed into a political warfare, organizations may gain a lot from such
politics. Organizations get hurt if such a warfare goes out of hand and is played for a longer period with the repercussions
of losing productivity and losing some of their key leaders in the process.
13. My key learning from the session is, “Never go overboard in exercising your power, deal delicately, humans usually
respond positively when dealt humanely, they may still not agree with you and decide to leave you, but they will
understand your position better and would not develop toxicity towards you.”