Organization Power and Politics

Definition of Power

Power is easy to feel but difficult to define. It is the potential ability of a person or group to influence another person or group. It is the ability to get things done the way one wants them to be done. Both formal and informal groups and individuals may have power; it does not need an official position or the backing of an institution to have power.At a broad level, power can be interpreted in terms of control or influence over the behaviour of other people with or without their consent.

Sources of Power

  • Legitimate Power

A person’s position within organization provides him with legitimate power. The organization gives managers the power to direct the activities of their subordinates. Legitimate power is similar to formal authority and hence it can be created, granted, changed or withdrawn by the formal organization. The structure of the organization also identifies the strength of the legitimate authority by position location. For instance, higher-level positions exercise more power than lower-level positions in a classical hierarchical organizational structure. Organizations vary in how much legitimate power they grant to individuals. In such organizations, everyone knows who has the most power and few people challenge the power structure.

  • Reward Power

This type of power is the extent to which one person has control over rewards that are valued by another. The greater the perceived values of such rewards, the greater the power. Organizational rewards include pay, promotions and valued office assignments. A manager who has complete control over such rewards has a good deal of power. Manager who uses praise and recognition has also a good deal of power.

  • Coercive Power

People have coercive power if they have control over some form of punishment such as threat of dismissal, suspension, demotion or other method of embarrassment for the people. Perhaps, a manager can cause psychological harm also lo an employee. A manager‘s coercive power increases with the number and severity of the sanctions over which the manager has control. Although the use of coercive power is often successful in the short run, it tends to create resentment and hostility and therefore is usually detrimental to the organization in the long run.

  • Expert Power

It is more of personal power than organizational power. Expert power is that influence which one wields as a result of one’s experience, special skill or knowledge. This power occurs when the expert threatens to withhold his knowledge or skill. Since any person who is not easily replaceable has more power as compared to those who are easily replaceable. If the sub-ordinates view their superior as competent, and knowledgeable, naturally they will obey and respect the superior. To the extent, that a low-ranking worker has important knowledge not available to a superior, he is likely to have more power.

  • Referent Power

A person who is respected by certain others for whatever reason has referent power over those people. A person with referent power may have charisma and people who respect that person are likely to get emotionally involved with the respected person and identify with, accept and be willing to follow him or her. People with referent power are often imitated by others with the star’s actions, attitudes and dress. This imitation reflects the rising star’s power over the imitations.



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