Managing People and Organisation Power

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Should the prospect of more powerful organisations be welcomed or feared?

In this essay, I am going to argue that power is a conflicting and ambiguous subject when applied to organisations; this ambiguity can be feared as well as welcomed. It can be said that power is a basis of creation for organisations and without it organisations would cease to exist. Alternatively, power can have a detrimental impact, and stakeholders should be vigilant, as well as understanding that it is a necessary component of organisations. In section one, I present Morgan (2006) and Knight and Roberts (1982) to convey the concept of all forms of power to be dangerous and should be feared. In section two, I refer to Bauman (1989) and Knight and Robert (1982) to argue that we should welcome power as an integral facet of an organisations creation. In section 3, I draw upon Knight and Robert (1982) again to suggest that true power is the result of relationships to work efficiently and thus should be welcomed.

Section 1

Organisations necessitate the exercise of power to achieve some form of order, regularity and control.

All forms of power are dangerous. Morgan’s (2006) interpretation of organisational domination highlights the negative effects of power within organisational environments. He suggests a “company or organisation almost seems to take on the form of an alien entity which has a like of its own; driven by mysterious forces and which constrains and restricts individuals in it”. Meaning that the organisation’s size and structure hold such intimidating power that staff feel helpless or undervalued in the firm, resulting in staff feeling as if they are unable to control what is demanded of them for the sake of the company. It also suggests an unenthused working environment, where work is seen as just a means of just paying bills not as positive career development. Furthermore, this contributes to the working environment to be seen as unpleasant and unconducive to high quality work, as a result of management’s abuse of power. There are two central forms of power: coercion and authority. Both involve the employment of power to manipulate other people’s behaviour with the ultimate goal of compliance. Coercion involves forcing one’s will on another; this is clearly demonstrated in the treatment of slaves in America before the 1820s. It can be said that this is an extreme situation but we ask the question is this concept of coercion still used within organisations? A modern example of coercion is organisation’s exploitation of children in sweatshops, working in sub-standard conditions for minimal compensation. It also creates psychological and physical fear amongst employees. Knight and Roberts (1882) suggest this through their study of the practice and consequences of power within four organisations. Company A employees were strictly monitored and “daily activities, sales performance and general conduct were recorded”. Fear developed amongst staff, as a result of “continuous threats and pressures” to comply with management image. They suggest that “management misinterpreted the nature of power and were therefore inclined to abuse it”. From this case study the notion that organisations should be feared is verified, as it clear power negatively affects the working environment and furthermore its performance. Company A was also found to have “accusations of favouritism” causing mistrust and individual protection of self-interest. Authority is generally represented as the legitimate and acceptable form of power through social structure; it is commonly exercised by managers and the leaders of organisations. Drawing from Knight and Roberts (1882) it can be said that authoritative control generates lack of communication between hierarchical levels of organisations and disconnection between colleagues, clearly exemplified in Company C. This power creates fear amongst employees and does not stimulate a positive work environment. Lastly, we ask...
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