Organizational Power and Politics

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Organization and management 2

Introduce the issues and practices of organizational power and organizational politics.

Introduce the issues and practices of power and organizational politics. Power and politics within an organization revolve around staff and involves many facets of the organization including company resources, money, time and authority. Power is the ability of an individual or group to influence others to do what they want done. Politics is the use of techniques and tactics by an individual or group to achieve power and influence within an organization.  Organizational power and politics are central to all organizations and they affect the behaviours within those organizations greatly. Understanding the effect of an organizations political system and the use of power and influence within the organization is essential in order to manoeuvre the organization towards its goals. Organizational power, Power can be defined as “the ability or capacity to make others do something or act in a particular way”. It is the capacity of a person, team, or organization to influence others. There are five main sources of power which were identified by John R.P French and Bertram Raven. Reward power, this is based on an agent’s ability to control or to which an entity can control the dispensing of rewards and benefits. Rewards can be both tangible (such as pay raise) and intangible (encouragement).

Referent power, this is a power that gives the ability for a leader to empathize with subordinates and have referent power in their communication. A leader with referent power will try to identify how their subordinates feel and then sympathize and engage with their subordinates with a similar experience they have had in the past.

Legitimate power, which is based on an agreement between an agent and a target the agent is trying to influence. The effectiveness of legitimate power depends on how the agent uses it. If the agent abuses their authority they lose their legitimacy and they will become a less effective influencer. On the other hand, the agent’s power will become more effective if they use their power positively and judiciously helping other people/ targets.

Coercive power, is basically the opposite to reward power. The person who has coercive power has the ability to punish someone for not following direct orders. This can be e.g. police officer or a ticket controller on the local tram. Labour unions are a good example of a group who have coercive power. If they are threatening to strike their demands will most likely be fulfilled or at least partly fulfilled.

Expert power. Many people see this as the most important of the five power types defined by French and Raven. Having expert knowledge about a subject that others value is beneficial for the subject matter expert. During a working day is it usually the individual with the expert power who is respected by other colleagues and asked to help. This individual must usually develop their leadership, networking skills and experience in management if they want to advance through the organizational ranks.

Robert S. Feldman added a sixth power in the categories of power by French and Raven. This sixth power is called Information Power. Individuals with information power are able to access and control different types of important information.

We can say that information power is the most transient form of social power compared to the five other types of power. The person with information power must be careful since they will give away a pieces of their power if they share their information with someone else.

We can also mention that Joyce Hocke and William W. Wilmot added a further two sources of power; Intimacy power and Interpersonal power.

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Tao Te Ching

Which types of these powers are the most effective?
In general, Coercive Power, Rewarding Power and Legitimate...
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