Power in Management
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. Influence can take many forms. One person has influenced another if the second person’s opinions, behavior or perspectives have changed as a result of their interaction. Power is a factor at all levels of most organizations. It can be a factor in almost any organizational decision.
Power and Authority
Sometimes power and authority is used synonymously because of their objective of influencing the behavior of others. However, there is difference between the two. Power does not have any legal sanctity while authority has such sanctity. Authority is institutional and is legitimate. Power, on the other hand, is personal and does not have any legitimacy. But stilt, power is a crucial factor in influencing the behavior in organizational situation.
Read More: Difference Between Power and Authority
Sources of Power in Management
John R. P. French and Bertram Raven identified five bases or sources of power: legitimate, reward, coercive, expert and referent 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 Legitimate power is similar to formal authority and hence it can be created, granted, changed or withdrawn by the formal organization.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.
How Managers Use Power
An individual manager may have power derived from any or all of the five bases of power and the manager may use that power in different ways. Therefore, good managers must try to analyse the sources of their power and be careful how they use that power.
Using Legitimate Power
The use of legitimate power is seldom challenged in an organization; when a superior asks a sub-ordinate to do something, the sub-ordinate usually complies without resistance. However, the way the superior makes the request and follows it up are very important for ensuring the sub-ordinate’s future compliance and the growth of the superior’s referent power. Though the secretary does what the boss asks, still the boss could be cordial and polite when making requests and should whenever possible explain why a particular task needs to be done. The secretary who understands the importance of a task will be more likely to work enthusiastically on it.
The boss must follow normal procedures and make sure the request is appropriate. For instance, a vice-president whose secretary is busy should not assume that he or she can just ask a supervisor’s secretary to drop all other work and type a letter. Such by passing of the normal chain of command can cause hard feelings among all the people involved.
Most of these suggestions imply that managers must be sensitive to employees concerns. Managers who are insensitive to their employees may find that their legitimate power dwindles and that they must resort to coercive power.
Using Reward Power
The manager, before giving a reward, must be sure that the employee has actually done the job and done it well. Employees must know that they get rewarded for good work.
Using Coercive Power
For some people, using coercive power is a natural response when something goes wrong. But often employees resist coercive power, resent it and losing respect for people using that type, of power. Hence, coercion is now generally recognized to be the most difficult form of punishment to use successfully in an organization.
Managers who wish to maintain their credibility should make threats only when they intend to carry through on them and should never threaten a punishment that they cannot bring about. A good manager will be such that the punishment fit the crime. For instance, warning an individual who uses copying machine to make -personal copies but firing someone who steals equipment from the organization. Public punishment makes everyone uneasy and humiliating and hence should be done private.
Using Expert Power
To gain power from their expertise, managers must make people aware of how much they know. Manager can use his expert power most effectively to address employee concerns. If a particular sales person faces any difficulty in selling a particular product and turns to manager for his help, the manager must be able to identify the defect and must be able to help and educate him.
Using Referent Power
Leaders have traditionally strengthened their referent power by hiring employees with backgrounds similar to their own. One of the most positive and subtle uses of referent power is the process of rote modeling. A respected manager who wants her employees to be punctual, considerate and creative can simply demonstrate those behaviors herself and her employees will likely imitate her actions.