5 Different Bases of Power

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French and Raven came up with five different bases of power. Coercive, legitimate, reward, referent, and expert are the five types of power. Someone can create power through one or more of these bases. There is the possibility that one base power may undermine another. One must learn how to use these powers in a positive way to create a positive relationship.

Coercive power gives employers power by having the employees fearful of punishment. Termination, demotion, or loss of rewards could be used as punishments if the employee does not comply. We see coercive power used in the scenario with Employee 1. Employee 1 has to work overtime because he/she is fearful of losing the yearly bonus. In this case the manager is the individual who holds the power.

Individuals do what is required of them so they can receive a desired reward. Rewards can be recognition, new assignments, promotion or a pay raise. In the scenario the reward being used with Employee 1 was the yearly bonus. A reward can also be removing something negative. Reward power is a way to motivate employees to do their best work within the company. In this case the manager has power by offering an award the employee wants.

Legitimate power exists because employees believe that their manager has the right to give orders. Legitimate power is represented in the scenario by Employee 1. Employee trusts that his/her boss has the authority to say working late and on weekends is necessary. Employee 1 complies with these orders because of legitimate power. In this case the manager has power because the employee believes the manager has the right to be in control.

Coercive, reward, legitimate power are both formal powers. They are based on a person’s position within a company.
People who have specific skills or knowledge can influence others with expert power. Managers can become dependant upon one person’s specific skill or knowledge. These individuals can exercise power as a result of their specific skill. They can sway people to think or feel the same way they do. In the scenario, Employee 2 convinced his boss to give him/her the schedule he/she wanted. Employee 2 was able to do this by expert power because the boss had nobody else that could do his/her job.

Referent power is when an individual has an influence over others by having desirable characteristics. Referent power has the broadest range of all powers. People can gain referent power by having charisma. In the scenario Employee 3 was able to obtain power by being well-like, charismatic, and positive. These characteristics drew other employees into him/her. He/she was then able to lead a team working on the new idea he/she created. Individuals with referent power can also use it for coercion because of the fear of social exclusion.

Expert and referent power does not require someone to have a formal position in a company. These are personal power, which comes from an individual’s personal characteristics.
Research shows that personal powers are more effective than formal powers. The interesting thing about all five types of power is that an individual who has power is expected to use it or they risk losing it. Exercising power does not need to be a negative action; it should be used to do a job more successfully. Everyone can benefit from power, if the power is used for the good of others and the company. In conclusion, power and authority does not come from the person in a authoritative position, but from the person being influenced.

Dependency is the relationship between two people when one has something the other desires. One person can become dependant upon another person for several reasons. Dependency is the key to power. This dependency is what determines how much power one person can have over another. Dependency is created by the importance and scarcity of the resource. In order for a person to have power, they must be in control of something desirable. A manager can use several...
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