Power Dependencies

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One of the most fundamental aspects of power is that of dependency. Where the person over whom you wish to exert power is completely independent of your actions, there can be no exercise of power. A person who seeks to exercise power over you must control something you desire in order to succeed. The amount of power that can be wielded is directly related to the degree of such dependency.

As we have seen power is not absolute; it varies with the situation and over time. Power can be created and one way of doing this is to take total control of important information, thus creating a monopoly. Put another way, dependency is created when the resource over which you have taken control is vital, scarce and cannot be substituted. Both informal power and politics thrive in conditions of uncertainty. Organisations seek to avoid uncertainty and those business functions which are active in reducing uncertainty are the most powerful.

As power is a social phenomenon, at least two persons (or groups) must be involved. Most studies, until recently, concentrated on the person exercising power and attempting to influence others. Now, researchers are also looking at how people try to avoid or moderate the effects of such influence. The extent to which such people are successful in opposing the influence is directly related to the power dependencies of those targeted. All people are not subject to the same bases of power. Why are some people more susceptible to various influences than others? Three causes have been identified; they are:

1. the nature of the subordinate’s values. If the areas the manager can influence are important to the subordinate, then he or she is likely to be more open to that influence; for example, if the manager controls or influences pay and the employee places a high value on that aspect of their job;

2. the nature of relationship between the individual exercising power (A) and the person on the receiving end (B). Are they at the same level in the...
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