Organizational Theroy

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Topic 4: Power, Resistance and Decision
Making
Developed by Dr. Ruth Barton
&
Dr. Margaret Heffernan, OAM RMIT University

Aims of the lecture
Questions of power
Hoe power works; 4 faces of power
Resistance and control
Types of resistance
Decision making
Theories of decision making; factors that
enhance and limit decision making
RMIT University©2012

2

Questions of Power

Who has
power?
How is
influence
achieved?

What is power?
Several
dimensions
and bases

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How is power
obtained
in
organisations?

POWER

What
alternative
theories and
perspectives
are there?

What of
resistance?
Another form
of power?

3

How Does Power Work in Organisations?

Organisations
are
hierarchical

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Power
as the
ability
to control
social interaction

What is Power?
Normative
(most
rational
way of
organising
power)
Realpolitik
(how does
power
actually
operate)

An
individual
capacity?

Two
broad
traditions

OB blind
towards
power

Property of the
person or
collective?

Power as the
prerogative of
wise or
wealthy men?

RMIT University©2012

(Source: Thompson and McHugh 2009:256)

5

Power in Mainstream Theory
Bases of power
► Reward
► Coercive
► Referent
► Legitimate
► Expert
(French & Raven 1959)

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Trend spotting as
Power
information power in the
advertising industry
Control over information
flow
 legitimate power
 More power to those who
can help firms cope with
uncertainty in contemporary
business

Power : Mainstream Theory
• The Four ‘Faces’ of
Power

Economic
Coercive
Ideological
(Runciman 1999)

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►Coercion
► Manipulation
► Domination
► Subjectification
(Fleming and Spicer 2007)

1st Face of Power: Coercion
Direct coercion
getting another person to
do something that might
not have been done.

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2nd Face of Power - Manipulation
►Of agendas: ‘behind the
scenes’ politicking
3 processes
► Anticipation of results
► Mobilisation of bias
► Rule and norm making

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►Exclusion from decision
making authority
►Power as manipulation:
There is no direct
exercise of power but an
implicit shaping of issues
considered important or
irrelevant.

3rd Face of Power - Domination
►Over the preferences and opinions of
participants
►Power that shapes our preferences, attitudes
and political outlook
►Used in the design and implementation of
paradigmatic frameworks
►Forms of life e.g. profit
►Ideology
►Technical rationality
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4th Face of Power - Subjectification

►People are moulded with certain understandings of
themselves and the world around them
►The organisation moulds people into a certain type
►Use knowledge to produce compliance
►Culture of the customer

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“A wide range of behaviour – from failure to
work very hard or conscientiously, to not
working at all, deliberate output restriction,
practical joking, pilferage and sabotage.”
(Ackroyd and Thompson, 1999 cited in Fleming and Spicer, 2007)

“Resistance constitutes a form of
power exercised by subordinates
in the workplace.”
(Collinson, 1994 cited in Fleming and Spicer, 2007)

Resistance
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12

Resistance as Refusal
► 1st face of power is coercion
► Resistance is refusal to do what the person
in the position of power tells him / her to do
► Aim is to block the effects of power by
undermining the domination rather than
changing it

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Resistance as Voice
►2nd face of power operates through nonparticipation
► Resistance is to gain access to power in order to
express voice
►Internal: interest groups, trade unions
►External: social movements
►Sabotage

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Resistance as Escape
► 3rd face of power is domination
► Escape is to mentally disengage from
the world of work
► Tools are...
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