Power through communication

Topics: Liberalism, Psychology, Perception Pages: 8 (780 words) Published: October 15, 2014

Cathy Butland
Table of Contents

The impact of power on communication in the workplace can be seen in a number of ways. There are too many to discuss in this short report, so five specific types have been chosen; legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, expert power, and referent power. Before discussing these powers it is important to understand what power is and how it impacts communication in the workplace. DEFINITION

Power is often associated with the way in which an individual has the ability to not only influence the actions and behaviours of others, but also resist the influence.i 1 This capacity to sway the conduct of others, whether real or perceived, is a crucial leadership skill of effective managers through organisational communication. Organisational Communication

Organisational communication is often a formal type of communication between different levels of management, regarding “human communication that occurs within the context of the organisation”ii 2. Communication is a two-way process, but for this process to be successful the message has to be clearly conveyed by the sender in order for it to be received and thoroughly understoodiii 3. This can only occur if the message is not distorted by barriers associated with organisational power. DISCUSSION

Organisational Power
Organisational power encompasses three major types of power which are legitimate, reward, and coercive.4 This can often be connected to how high an individual is in an organisation; the higher they are, the greater the control an individual can exert. Legitimate power is often associated with a job title or responsibilities and can be seen as a real power. This association with an individual’s position is sometimes referred to as positional power5. Legitimate or positional power infers authority on the individual often by their job title, such as a manager or supervisor, and means that they hold the position of an arbiter.

Reward power, as the name suggests, is all about having the ability to reward others6. These rewards can include promotions, recognition, or just a simple thank you. Whilst receiving a reward is a very pleasing, reward power also means having the ability to withhold a reward, which can lead to negative behaviour and resentment in the workplace. Coercive power is often described as an approach that “threatens, through punishment or manipulation of the environment, to take away freedom of choice”iv7. For this reason coercive power can be seen in a negative way that is easily abused and has been known to lead to bullying in the workplace. Personal Power

In order for an individual to recognise and deal with organisational power, it is important that they are aware of their personal power. Personal power is founded mostly on “personal reactions, attitudes and interactions with those working around and beneath the individual wielding the power “8. There are two main types of personal power; expert, and referent. Expert power is very similar to legitimate power in that it is also connected to an individual’s position, but it also encompasses their expertise, knowledge and skill.v9

Referent power comes from an employee’s interpersonal power “that generates respect and engagement”vi 10 from co-workers. This type of positive relationship is a perceived power that can create motivated workers and improved productivity in the workplace. It is for this reason that personal power appears to be the most effective form of power in the workplace. If personal power is used positively it can ensure that organisational communication is received and understood effectively, because of “how the individual interacts and behaves around and towards others “11. Power can also be ineffective if it is used at the wrong times or in the wrong way. But by finding the right balance between the various...
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