Basis of Power

Topics: Hierarchy, English-language films, Leadership Pages: 5 (1720 words) Published: January 29, 2012
Bases of Power Essay
When speaking on power, the Greek philosopher Aristotle once suggested "What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do". Although not always apparent, everyone possesses power in one form or the other. Power can be defined as the influence that one person has over another person. The influence an individual possesses can be extended to others through a variety of dissimilar stratagems. In 1959, social psychologists John French and Bertam Raven completed a comprehensive study on the bases of power and concluded that power can be separated into five distinct forms. The five forms of power French and Raven defined are coercive, reward, legitimate, expert, and referent. This thesis will describe the five bases of power, which exist in the given scenario, describe the relationships between each base of power, and examine the dependencies that exist in the theoretical Corporation A.

The first form of power that we will examine is coercive power. Coercive power is described as power that one person exerts over another through the threat of punishment. The person holding coercive power demands compliance with a request and threatens negative consequence if the demand is not met. The person holding power may threaten the employee with adverse working conditions or undesirable assignments, intimidate the employee with inferior performance ratings, or offer threats of demotion or termination if the employee does not comply with the request. Coercive power can take many forms and is unveiled in the Corporation A scenario.

Coercive power is demonstrated in the given scenario by the marketing manager. The manager is coercing employees, who choose not work over 40 hours, with inferior performance evaluations. The marketing manager has made it clear that only employees who work 40+ hour weeks will receive favorable performance evaluations. This also implies that an employee who chooses to maintain only a 40 hour work week can expect to receive a less than favorable review for what the manager judges as inferior performance.

Although it is less obvious, the marketing department has the potential to use coercive power against the marketing manager. As much as the marketing employees are dependent on the manager for favorable performance reviews, the marketing manager is also dependent on the employees for workload production. Collectively as a group, they have the potential to hold coercive power by threatening to limit their production, or quit if the policy of requiring an excessive work week for a favorable review is not abolished. In addition, coercive power can also exist within other forms of power. For example, coercive tactics could have been utilized by employee 2 when a shortened work week was negotiated with the accounting manager. As the only employee with the expertise to complete Corporation A's financial documents, the certified public accountant could have coupled coercive force with expert power. The CPA could have suggested that they would seek employment elsewhere if the shortened work week request was denied. This suggestion is purely hypothetical, however it is another good example of how coercive power could be employed by the subordinate against the person of authority

The second form of power that French and Raven described in their study is reward power. Reward power is the precise opposite of coercive power. Rather than power through fear of consequences, reward power is based on the person in a position of power offering a reward for the successful compliance of a desired objective. The employee may be presented with improved working conditions or given prestigious assignments. Similarly, he or she may be enticed with superior performance ratings, promotions, salary increases, or bonuses for the successful completion of the desired objective. Like coercive power, reward power can take many forms and is widespread in the Corporation A scenario....
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