Power in Organizations

Topics: Management, Authority, Quality management Pages: 11 (3749 words) Published: March 3, 2011
Power in organizations: A look through the TQM lens
Carson, Paula Phillips, Carson, Kerry David, Knight, E Leon Jr, Roe, C William. Quality Progress. Milwaukee: Nov 1995. Vol. 28, Iss. 11; pg. 73, 6 pgs Copyright American Society for Quality Control Nov 1995

IN A TOTAL QUALITY ENVIRONMENT, THE empowered employee alters the traditional supervisor-subordinate relationship. Instead of passively executing orders, empowered employees assume both the responsibility and authority necessary to anticipate and respond to workplace problems.(1) Because total quality management (TQM) is a relatively new philosophy, managers are often perplexed about how to supervise empowered employees. While managers may understand that empowerment does not equate with the total abdication of their authority or accountability, they may not know how best to exercise their power in this new environment. Attempts have been made to theoretically model (2) and measure the process of empowerment, (3) but current research has yet to investigate the relationship between supervisory power and employee empowerment. Because of its intuitive. appeal and practicability, J.R.P. French and B. Raven's conceptualization of social power is the framework most widely accepted by researchers investigating leader influence. (4) These two social psychologists identified five distinct power bases: * Coercive power. The employee's perception that the manager can mediate punishment. * Legitimate power. The employee's perception that the manager has the authority to prescribe behavior. * Reward power. The employee's perception that the manager can mediate rewards. * Referent power. The employee's identification with and attraction to the manager. * Expert power. The employee's perception that the manager possesses unique or rare knowledge or skills. Managers exercise various types of social power to facilitate employee execution of requests and instructions. How employees respond to these requests and instructions depends on the type of power exercised by the manager. The optimal reaction a manager would like to receive from an employee in a TQM environment is commitment -- the employee internalizes and enthusiastically embraces the manager's request. A less desirable outcome is compliance-the employee conforms to the request but with minimal effort and support. A third possible outcome, though undesirable, is resistance -- the employee opposes the request either overtly or through subtle means, such as making excuses or delaying. (5) To ensure that commitment rather than compliance or resistance occurs, a manager must carefully consider which social power base to exercise. The social power bases: From potentially defective to effective Research on the use of French and Raven's five social powers has demonstrated that the power bases yield different outcomes depending on their desirability. (6) This is demonstrated in Table 1, (table 1 omitted) which summarizes a meta-analysis of the relationships among the social power bases and employee satisfaction with supervision, job satisfaction, and performance. (7) Table 1 reveals that coercive power is most likely to elicit dysfunctional consequences because it diminishes employee satisfaction. Similarly, reliance on legitimate power is deficient because it lacks the capacity to stimulate employees to improve their attitudes or performance. And while the proper exercise of reward power may improve performance, the use of referent and expert power has been empirically determined to be most effective. These findings present a challenge to organizations because the least effective power bases-coercive, legitimate, and reward -- are those most likely to be used by managers. In. fact, these the power bases are collectively referred to as "positional" forms of influence, so called because managers inherit these powers when they take a supervisory job. Alternatively, referent and expert powers are "personal" forms of influence, meaning...
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