Nature of organisational power

Organisational Power Meaning, Definition, Nature, Importance

Table of Contents:-

Organisational Power Meaning 

Organisational power is the capacity to persuade the group to work towards the accomplishment of a company’s organisational goals. It depends on the personal traits of the individual exercising the power. A manager’s power may be measured in terms of the ability to give rewards, promise rewards, promise rewards, withdraw current rewards, threaten punishment, and discipline.

Power is defined as the ability to get someone to do something one person wants to be done or the ability to make something happen in the way that he wants them to. The essence of power is control over the behaviour of others. Power is the force one can use to make things happen in an intended way.

Power is the degree of influence an individual or group has in decision making, without being authorised by the organization to do so. It may exist but not be used. It is, therefore, a capacity or potential. A person can have power but not impose it. Likely, the most important part of power is that it is a function of dependence.

The greater X’s dependence on Z, the greater Z’s power in the relationship. Dependence, in turn, is based on alternatives that B perceives and the importance that B places on the alternative(s) that A controls. A person can have power over one only if he or she controls something one desires.

Organisational Power Definition

According to G. R. Salancik and N. Pfeffer, “Power is the ability to get things done the way one wants them to be done”

According to Stephen P. Robbins, “Power is defined as the ability to influence and control anything that is of value to others”.

According to Max Weber, “Power is the probability that one actor within the relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance”.

According to P. M. Blau, “Power is an exchange process a person who commands services needed by others exchanges them for compliance with his or her request”,

Nature of Organisational Power 

The nature of organisational power includes:

Nature of Organisational Power

1) Reciprocal Relationships

A power relationship in an organization is reciprocal because it exists in a relationship between two or more persons. It is based on two-way traffic influencing other people and being impacted. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that power exists with top-ranking officials or with managers.

2) Dependency Relationships

This is an important characteristic of power. When a person is more dependent on someone, more power is exerted on him.

3) Power is Specific

Power is specific in the sense that specific persons can exercise it on some specific occasions only. Power cannot be exercised at all times and by all people.

4) Unequal Distribution

Power is not equally distributed among members since different individuals have varied types and levels of knowledge, experience, education, skill, and hierarchical authority. They probably differ in terms of their power to influence others.

5) People Differ in Terms of Values

In terms of their values, people differ in the pain and exercise of power. Research indicates that the amount of power exercised by a person is the function of his or her power motive.

6) Resistance to Change

Power holders resist attempts to change the distribution of power. A person who strives for power and can acquire it, are unwilling to share it with other members of the group.

7) Power Losers Attempt to Form Coalition

Power losers usually attempt to increase their power individually and if they fail, form a coalition To regain influence by becoming a power holder, he loses an attempt to build a personal power base, though it may be difficult, risky and costlier.

8) Power can Expand or Contract

It will depend on the person who is habituated to exercising power to expand or to contract. When a person reaches higher positions his legitimate power attached to his position simultaneously increases. When such a person is moved from one branch to another, his power contracts.

Sources and Classification of Organisational Power 

In organisations, organisational power flows from the following categories of sources:

1) Source of Individual Power

Sources of individual power include:

i) Sources of Formal Individual Power

Formal individual power is the power that stems from a person’s position in an organisation’s hierarchy. It includes:

  1. Legitimate Power
  2. Coercive Power
  3. Reward Power
  4. Information Power

a) Legitimate Power: Informal groups and organisations, probably the most frequent access to one or more of the power bases is one’s structural position. This is called legitimate power. It defines the formal authority to control and use organisational resources.

b) Coercive Power: The coercive power base is dependent on fear. It is based on the application, or the threat of application, of the generation of frustration through restriction of movement, physical sanctions such as the infliction of pain, or the controlling by force of basic safety or physiological needs.

c) Reward Power: The opposite of coercive power is reward power. People comply with the wishes directives or wants of others because doing so produces positive benefits, therefore, one who can distribute rewards that others view as valuable will have power over those others. 

d) Information Power: Information is power. This phrase is increasingly appropriate in a learning and knowledge-based economy. People gain information power when they control the flow of information to others: Information power is higher for those who seem to be able to cope with organisational uncertainties. 

ii) Sources of Informal Individual Power

The power that comes from an individual’s unique characteristics is called the individual source of power. The sources are:

  1. Expert Power
  2. Referent Power
  3. Charismatic Power

a) Expert Power: Expert power is influence wielded as a result of special skill, expertise, or knowledge. Expertise has become one of the most effective sources of influence as the world has become more technologically oriented. 

b) Referent Power: Referent power is based on identification with someone who has personality traits of desirable resources. Referent power develops out of admiration for an individual and a desire to be like him.

c) Charismatic Power: Charismatic power emerges from an individual’s charisma, a quality unique quality of this charisma, the individual can articulate attractive visions, take personal risks, demonstrate environmental sensitivity, and is willing to engage in behaviour that most other people consider unconventional.

2) Functional and Divisional Power

This power is based on an individual’s position in an organisation. Formal power can come from the reward or ability to coerce, or from formal authority. 

The bases of divisional and functional  power are:

i) Ability to Control Uncertain Contingencies

A contingency is an event or problem that could occur and must be planned for, by having people and resources in place to deal with it. A division or function has power over others if it can reduce the uncertainty they experience or manage the problem that is troubling them.

ii) Substitutability

Substitutability refers to the availability of alternative sources for the same resource like courier services and also the availability of substitutes for resources like e-mail for Indian posts

iii) Centrality

Centrality is the degree and nature of interdependence between the power holder and others. The two dimensions of centrality are:

  • a) How many people are affected by the actions? 
  • b) How quickly people are affected by their actions?

The centrality with a higher degree and positive nature enhances the strength of the power and vice-versa 

iv) Ability to Control and Generate Resources

The ability to control and generate resources for an organisation is another source of functional and divisional power. This ability is important because the more money a division is given, the more people it can hire and the more advanced facilities it can build so that it increases its chances of success. Although controlling resources is important, the ability to develop them is also important.

v) Discretion

Discretion is the freedom to make decisions without referring to rules or permissions from superiors. Discretion makes the power strong and the absence of discretion makes the power weak. Thus, the supervisors become powerless due to the absence of discretion even though they may have access to some sources of power. 

vi) Visibility

The employee’s power becomes strong when he makes others know his sources of power. Thus, receiving visibility increases as the number of people with whom the employee is interacting increases. 

vii) Dependability

Power-holders will get the advantage only when others do not have the same power. Whenever one has computer skills in the organisation, acquiring those skills will not give the power. As such, the companies develop multiple dealers in the same town, multiple suppliers of raw materials, etc., to reduce their dependency on one agency.

3) Structural Sources

Structural sources of power include the following:

i) Knowledge as Power

It is widely known that knowledge is power. Knowledge may be understood as an analysis or conclusion derived from data & information. Data are facts statistics and specifics. Information is the context in which data are placed Knowledge is actionable information. Having access to appropriate and important knowledge/information is power,

ii) Resource as Power

It is well-known that power stems from access to resources, information and support and the ability to get cooperation in doing necessary work. Power occurs when a person has easy access to resources money, customers, technology, human resources, materials, and the like.

In organisations, top executives allocate resources to lower-level managers depending on the needs and performance of their sectors/departments. The allocators of resources wield power.

iii) Decision-Making as Power

The degree to which individuals can influence decision-making determines the amount of power acquired. The capacity to influence the decision making process is an often subtle overlooked source of power. This is so because an individual capable of influencing decision-making prefers to remain unnoticed lest others would look at him as a person covered in mystery.

Importance of Organisational Power

The importance of power can be analysed in two ways:

1) Necessary for Coordinated Activities

Power is required in the organisation for the effective performance of activities of the people. In its absence, there may be chaos which is unwanted for the following reasons:

  1. People become insecure and upset in the presence of chaos, and 
  2. Chaos prevents the synergistic benefits that are gained from effective organisations.

Thus, many benefits of modern organisations cannot be obtained without the viable exercise of power in some form. People may be willing to obey the power, although without any legitimacy. It has been observed that an individual may like success more than he dislikes being regulated by another’s power.

2) Basis for Authority and Responsibility

Power is commonly recognised as the basis of authority and responsibility. In one way, authority can be viewed as one of the prerequisites of power. If the source of the authority system in the form of formalisation is traced, it may be found in power.

For example, the dominant values of society have become formal authority systems, such as laws, social institutions, etc. The dominant values of the society are nothing but power in the society which is gradually transformed into these systems. In modern organisations too, the authority system is backed by the power system.

This is why some persons may have less formal authority but they can exercise more authority because of the power they have. Alternatively, some may have more authority, but actually, their exercise of authority is limited because of the power system which operates in the organisation. Power is also the basis of responsibility.

Responsibility is the obligation to carry on any function or discharge of duty. In formal organisations, responsibility is fixed based on the allocation of activities through the process of organising.

However, the real cause of accepting responsibility is somewhat more deep-rooted. Psychologists suggest that responsibility is a function of personality which, in turn, is largely shaped by a significant person in early childhood.

Power Tactics

Power tactics are used by someone to translate power bases into detailed actions. That is, what options do people have for influencing their co-workers, bosses or employees? And are some of these choices more effective than others?

There are various popular tactical options and the conditions under which one may be more effective than another, Although power bases and power tactics are similar concepts, power tactics are more immediate. One might imagine those power tactics, when successfully applied over time, result in an accumulation of a power base.

There are several tactics that individuals and groups can use to gain power in an organisation. Some of these tactics allow sharing between groups and partnerships; other tactics are more competitive and improve the power of one group at the expense of others.

Some tactics are as follows: 

1) Pressure

It involves using warnings, repeated demands, and threats. It is a hostile way of getting power. For example, if the management does not accept the demands of a trade union might threaten a strike or may slow down the work.

2) Coalitions

It is a temporary alliance of several individuals or groups who combine their efforts and energy for their common goals.

For example, the National Democratic Government was formed in India based on a coalition arrangement between several political parties. By forming a coalition, the members can increase their power or area of influence. 

3) Legitimacy

Relying on one’s authority position or stressing that a request is by organisational policies or roles.

4) Rational Persuasion

Presenting logical arguments and factual evidence to demonstrate that a request is reasonable,

5) Inspirational Appeals

Developing emotional commitment by appealing to a target’s values, hopes, needs and aspirations.

6) Personal Appeals

Asking for compliance based on loyalty or friendship.

7) Exchange

Rewarding the target with benefits or favours in exchange for following a request.

8) Ingratiation

Use flattery, praise or friendly behaviour before making a request.

9) Consultation

Increasing the target’s motivation and support by involving him or her in deciding how the plan or change will be accomplished.

Some tactics are more effective than others. Specifically, evidence shows that inspirational appeals, rational persuasion, and consultation tend to be the most effective. On the other hand, pressure tends to often backfire and is generally the least effective of the nine tactics.

One can also increase his chance of success by using more than one type of tactic at the same time or sequentially, as long as his choices are compatible.

For example, using both ingratiation and legitimacy can lessen the negative reactions that might come from the appearance of being “dictated to” by the boss.

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