7.1 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.

7.2 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 Legitimate power is similar to formal authority and hence it can be created, granted, changed or withdrawn by the formal organization.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.

7.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Power

Power is necessary in an organization because it helps managers fulfill their leadership responsibilities; it also helps all employees influence others in pursuit of organizational and personal goals. Two key benefits are the ability to inspire commitment (as a reaction to expert or referent power) and the ability to reduce uncertainty for others in the organization. Empowerment leads to other benefits, such as support for creativity and reduction of bureaucratic obstacles. The main disadvantage is the potential for misuse and abuse, which can harm individuals and the organization.

7.4 Politics in Organizations

Organizational politics are activities that allow people in organizations to achieve goals without going through formal channels. Whether political activities help or hurt the organization depends on whether the person’s goals are consistent with the organization’s goals. In the rational model of organizations, people are assumed to manage logically, based on clear information and well-defined goals.

7.5 Factors Influencing Political Behavior

  • Ambiguous Goals

When the goals of a department or the entire organization are ambiguous then there is more room available for playing politics. Some people may use the ambiguity to manipulate the situation for their benefit.

  • Scarce Resources

When resources are scarce, people have the tendency to use political behavior to make sure that they get the biggest possible share of the resource.

  • Changes in Technology and Environment

Organizational effectiveness is largely a function of the organization‘s ability to appropriately respond to external environment which is highly dynamic and generally unpredictable as well as adequately adopt to complex technological developments. Thus, political behavior is increased when the internal technology is complex and when external environment is highly volatile.


  • Non-Programmed Decisions

Sometimes, the companies have to make a lot of non-Programmed decisions on certain issues. These decisions are not based on clear standards and precedents, because such issues involve many factors and variables that are complex in nature. Hence decisions are taken on intuition, bunch and guesses and all these subjective feelings can be affected by political behavior.

  • Organizational Change

Whenever there are changes in the organizational structure and policies, peoples in powerful positions have the opportunity to play politics. These changes may include restructuring of a division or creating a division, personnel changes, introducing a new product line and all these changes influence political behavior when various individuals and groups try to control the given situation.

7.6 Techniques of Political Behavior

  • Controlling information: One technique of political behavior is to control the dissemination of critical information to others. The more critical the information and fewer the people who have it, the stronger is political power base of those who possess these information.
  • Controlling lines of communication: Controlling lines of communication is another political technique related to the flow of information. People who have some control over lines of communication can yield considerable political power. For example, the secretary may have considerable power in deciding who sees the boss and who does not at a given time. She may use this power in favoring those whom she likes and frustrating those against whom she may have it grudge.
  • Controlling agenda: Controlling the agenda also gives a person power over information. The person who controls a meeting’s agenda, for instance, may consistently put a particular item last on the list and then take up time so that meeting adjourns before considering the item.
  • Using outside experts: The opinions of outside experts and consultants often curry much weight in organizations and many consultants can be swayed by political interests. Consultants know who is paying them and even honest consultants are likely to give opinions consistent with those of their employer. Hence, hiring an outside consultant can be a clever political move.
  • Image building: Image building is creating positive impression reflected by the personality, appearance and style. Some of the factors that enhance a preferred image consist of being well dressed, having a pleasant smile, being attractive, honest, sociable and loyal to the organizational interests. In addition, always project an image of competence and self-assurance.
  • Building coalitions: Building coalitions or alliance is another technique of gaining political power. It is necessary to have the alliance with the right people. Coalition building can become simply a matter of quid pro quo: I will support you if you will support me.
(Visited 133 times, 1 visits today)
Share this:

Written by