Managing People Organisations

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Power, as a multifaceted concept, is indeed a necessary aspect of organisation. It is when this power is abused, however, that negative consequences often result. It also raises the questions of accountability and who should bear the responsibility of negative consequences. Thus, employees should challenge the perceived obligation to “simply” accept management’s exercise of power and question their true intentions. Essentially, a balance between the economic objectives of the organisation and the welfare of the people who represent it must be met. In reality, however, this is not always feasible.

In the first section of my essay, I will draw upon Parsons (1967: 237), Knights, D and Roberts, J. (1982), Roberts (1984) and Morgan. G (2006) to explore the various types of power and discuss their relevance to the fundamental functioning of an organisation. I will argue that power is necessary to an organisation, but that it should be limited due to the potential for abuse. In section two, I will cite Morgan. G (2006) and Milgram (1974:5) in exploring the extent to which employees should adhere to management’s instructions. I will explain that despite efforts to make objective decisions for the corporation, all people in positions of power are subject to emotions and human flaws that will ultimately influence their managerial style. Therefore, it is at an employees’ own peril that they blindly accept without questioning all decisions and actions by management. In section three I will utilise the work of Knights and Roberts (1982) and Morgan (2006) in exploring the idealistic balance between the wellbeing of the organisation and that of its employees. Finally, I conclude by suggesting that a balance in all arenas of work is ideal in the functioning of an organisation, but is not always practical.

Section One: Power as a feature of organisation
The purpose of an organisation is to combine the skills of many and allocate resources accordingly in order to achieve a common goal. In the corporate world, this common goal is to produce a profit. According to Parsons, power is “a generalised capacity to secure the performance of binding obligations by units in a system of collection organisation” (1967: 237). Knights and Roberts specifically refer to power in specific reference to organisations as “the fact that the capability which is the power of action is only realised in relationships between man and the natural world” (1982: 47-63). Knights and Roberts further explain “the organisational principle of the division of labour” which theorises that relationships between individual employees can heighten overall productivity in comparison to sole individual efforts. The division of labour essentially affirms the need for power as, in line with this theory, some individuals will naturally assume more chief roles in the corporation. Effectively, this notion encapsulates the potent need for power in organisations.

Power, however, is not only a necessary component of organisation, but a naturally occurring and inevitable element. This is conceptualised in Robert Michels “Iron Law of Oligarchy” in which he claims that “modern organisations typically end up under the control of narrow groups” despite this outcome often being undesirable for both “the leaders and the led” (Morgan, G 2006: 291-296). This theory was developed through extensive research in which he discovered that allegedly “democratic organisations” still succumbed to monopolistic tendencies. Explicitly, he states that this occurred “despite the best intentions”, highlighting the inevitability of such a consequence.

Power in organisations is a complex concept. It is founded upon the economics and politics of each individual organisation. The general hierarchies are such that the higher ranked members of the organisation will wield more power and thus have the ability to dominate the lower ranked employees. In the article “The Ugly Face: Organisations as Instruments...
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