Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Organisational Behaviour Lecture Series - Part 11 – Forms of Power in Organisations


Organisational Behaviour Lecture Series - Part 11 – Forms of Power in Organisations

Continued from ...



TYPES OF POWER IN AN ORGANISATION
By
VIKRAM KARVE

POWER AND ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOUR Part 2

The two essential entities that flow between the human elements of an organisation are information and power.

Information flow is a means of communication whereas power is an instrument of control.

Viewed from a Systems perspective, information flow is the transformation process, which facilitates decision making, in contrast to the flow of power, which is a control process whose objective is to ensure optimal operational performance.

Organisations are arrangements of power among individuals. In fact, as per one definition, an organisation comprises two or more persons interacting within a recognised power relationship for some common purpose. The interplay of power enables the achievement of common purpose (organisational objectives) and determines organisational behaviour.

Before we study the effect of power on organisational behaviour, it may be apt to take a closer look at the phenomenon we call POWER, in particular INTERPERSONAL POWER.

Interpersonal Power is the kind of power that people have over one another in formal and informal situations.

The various forms of power may be categorised into one or more of the following categories, some of which may be inter-dependent, or overlapping, and even forming power equations:

1. POSITION POWER
2. EXPERT POWER
3. CHARISMATIC POWER
4. INFLUENTIAL POWER
5. IMPLIED COERCION
6. ACTUAL COERCION
7. POWER OF APPLIED PRESSURE
8. POWER OF RAW FORCE
9. ASSUMED POWER
10. USURPED POWER
11. ORGANIZATION POWER
12. ASCETIC POWER

In many situations, particularly in organisations, many of the above forms of power are inextricably intertwined and mutually interdependent.

In fact, that is the beauty of the dynamics of the interplay of power within an organisation, which is why we will discuss the effects of the above types of power on organisational behaviour.

In Part 1 of the article, we discussed the concept of Ascetic Power.

Now let us explore how this fascinating phenomenon called power impacts and determines organisational behaviour and elaborate a bit on each of the various forms of Power listed above.

POSITION POWER

Position Power or legitimate power is the power that emanates from the rights of the holder of a position in the organisation owing to the deference of subordinates to that position. Position Power is vested in the leader by the organisation. This means that should a conflict arise between the leader and the follower, the leader will get his way. It is this type of power that is most open to abuse, misuse and distortion.

INFLUENTIAL POWER

According to Alvin Toffler, in his book Powershift, the three important sources of power are violence, wealth and knowledge. He also says that power is the reciprocal of desire, or needs. Anyone who can fulfil (or withhold) your needs or desires is a potential source of power. Thus, if you desire a promotion, your boss who can give (or deny) you the promotion has got power over you. If you need money, the person who can give you money has got influential power over you. The more your need, the more you are subject to influential power.

Influential Power or compensatory power is the power over rewards and resources. For example, money or wealth is an instrument of influential power. Satisfaction of needs (Maslow’s Need Hierarchy) including higher order needs of safety, belongingness, recognition and self-esteem through actions like grant of wage hikes, bonuses, increments, incentives, awards, promotions, and also simple intangibles like just “a pat on the back” are typical examples of influential power.

COERCIVE POWER

Coercive Power is an instrument of punishment. Denial of legitimate needs, dismissal, demotion, unwarranted “punishments” like vindictive transfers and other forms of harassment are some commonly observed examples of coercive power. If these “punishments” are actually implemented and imposed it is called Actual Coercion but even the mere threat and power to impose these coercive punishments is a potent form of power and is called Implied Coercion. (There is saying that sometimes the threat of violence is sometimes more scary than actual violence, so implied coercion can sometimes be quite effective). The extreme cases of coercive power include the power of raw force (physical assault or harm to life and limb) and implied or threat of force (power of applied pressure).

In most cases, influential power and coercive power have linkages with and may emanate from position power and rely on sources of wealth and violence (the “carrot and stick” approach)

EXPERT POWER

Expert Power is probably the only power that a lower ranking employee in an organisation can exert over those above him in the hierarchy or higher than him in rank or position. Expert Power derives from knowledge. It is the power devolved to a person who is regarded as possessing essential knowledge, skills, abilities, or expertise needed by the boss and the organisation. If we look around we will see lots of examples of expert power especially in the technical domain and in Information Technology, where certain “key” employees wield expert power which is much more vis-à-vis their position in the organisational hierarchy.

One must remember that expert power lasts as long as the expertise is uniquely consolidated in the employee and adds value and is required by the organisation.  Once a particular knowledge or expertise dissipates or becomes obsolete or redundant, the expert power that comes with that expertise disappears.

To be continued ... 

VIKRAM KARVE
 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011 
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale, and Bishop's School Pune, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". A collection of his short stories about relationships titled COCKTAIL is being published soon and Vikram is currently busy writing his first novel and with his teaching and training assignments. Vikram lives in Pune with his family and his muse – his pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog : http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm  
Academic and Creative Writing Journal Vikram Karve: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve: http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve  

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