JOHN F. GASKI*
Several distribution channel studies have examined the effects of various sources of a channel member's power on such phenomena as power, conflict, and satisfoction. However, as causal relationships among these power sources have not been considered, the author investigates some aspects of this issue. Specifically, the effects of reward and coercion on the expert, referent, and legitimate pov/er sources in a marketing channel are identified. Results indicate that (1) a supplier's application of reward and punishment does affect the strength of its other three power sources and (2) these relationships exert a major influence on whatever impact reward and coercion may have on other channel phenomena such as supplier power and dealer satisfaction. The implication of this finding of a compound effect of the use of certain power sources is that channel entities should be even more circumspect about such action than would be advised on the basis of prior research in this area.
Interrelations Among a Channel Entity's Power Sources: Impact of the Exercise of Reward and Coercion on Expert, Referent, and Legitimate Power Sources
CONCEPTUAL AND EMPIRICAL BACKGROUND In 1959, French and Raven provided what has become a classic taxonomy of the bases, or sources, of one social entity's power over another. Commonly referred to as reward, coercive, expert, referent, and legitimate power sources, these are defined, respectively, as; —B's perception that A has the ability to mediate rewards for him, —B's perception that A has the ability to mediate punishments for him. —B's perception that A has some special knowledge or expertness, —B's identification with A. and —B's perception that A has a legitimate right to prescribe behavior for him (French and Raven 1959. p. 263). Presumably because of their utility in the development *John F. Gaski is Assistant Professor of Marketing, University of Notre Dame. The author expresses appreciation to the Gallo Foundation and the Notre Dame Business Partners Fund tor financial support.
of the obviously useful attribute of power, that is. the ability to get someone to do something he or she woukl not have done otherwise (see Cartwright 1965; Dahl 1957; Emerson 1962), these power sources have received some conceptual and empirical attention in the field of marketing. (What could be more useful to a business entity than the ability to get others, such us suppliers or customers, to conform to its will, or more natuml than research interest in the antecedents of such a capability?) Conceptually, there have been attempts to expand the set to include so-called "informational" and "legalistic" ptiwer sources (Brown, Lusch, and Muehling 1983; Kasulis and Spekman 1980; Lusch and Brown 1982). However, these alleged power sources appear to be already captured by the French and Raven framework. The degree to which infonnation is accepted by a recipient entity (e.g., a marketing channel member) would surely depend on the perceived expertness of the iniormation provider. If this infonnation is favorably regarded or positively valued by the recipient, it would constitute a reward. Likewise, if an entity recognizes that a channel arrangement is such that there is legal basis for another's authority, this would 62 Journal of Marketing Research Vol. XXIU (February 1986). 62-77
CHANNEL ENTITY'S POWER SOURCES
represent the legitimate power source. The capacity to take legal action or especially to impose legal sanctions, which presumably would be regarded unfavorably by the target entity, would be a manifestation of the coercive power source. In other words, legal sanction would be perceived as a punishment. Other researchers have partitioned or dichotomized the set of power sources into two groups. Hunt and Nevin (1974) used a coercive-noncoercive distinction, with the latter including reward, expert, referent, and legitimate power sources. Etgar (1978) was the first to apply an...
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