October 1, 2017

Power - The Concept and Theory in Organizational Behavior

Power is an important dynamic (concept or variable) in organizational behavior.

Power - The Concept

Max Weber: "The probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance."

Pfeffer: "The potential ability to influence behavior, to change the course of events, to overcome resistance, and to get people to do things that they would not otherwise do."

The concept of power needs to be distinguished from authority and influence.

The concept of power needs to be distinguished from authority and influence.

Authority is the right to direct others and ask them to do things which they would not otherwise do, but it is legitimate and is exercised in the working of organizations.

Influence is conceived as more broader and it is the ability to alter actions of other people in general ways by changing their satisfaction criteria and thus improve their performance. Authority is different from power because of its legitimacy and acceptance in an organizational context and leadership is broader than power and indicates a willingness on the part of the follower to follow in the absence of authority.

Luthans remarked that operational definition of power is still lacking.

The classifications of Power

Psychologists John French and Bertram Raven provided five categories

1. Reward power
2. Coercive power (punishment power)
3. Legitimate power
4. Referent power
5. Expert power

Contingent Explanations of Power

Power comes to people from being in the right place.

1. Power comes to people who have control over resources such as budgets, physical facilities and can allocate them with discretion.
2. Control over access to information can give power.
3. Formal authority and legitimate power comes from organizational positions.

Some of the propositions related to power in contingent explanations are:

1. The greater the professional orientation of group members, the greater relative strength referent power has in influencing them.
2. If the high ranking participants show less interest in managing a task, low ranking participants obtain more power.
3. The greater the target's dependency on agent, the more targets are manipulated against their will.
4. If people are uncertain about the appropriateness or correctness of their behavior, they allow the powerful people to manipulate them.

Fred Luthans, Organizational Behavior, 9th Edition, McGraw-Hill International,

New Theory of Power - Dacher Keltner

People who attain enduring power today exhibit five behaviors

1.    Enthusiasm: They express interest in others, advocate on their behalf and take joy in their achievements.
2.    Kindness: They cooperate, share, express appreciation and dignify other people.
3.    Focus: They establish shared goals and rules, a clear purpose and keep people on task.
4.    Calmness: Through their actions and communication, they instill calm and perspective.
5.    Openness: They display empathy and a disciplined process of listening attentively.

According to Keltner over 70 studies have shown that people who rise in power – whether it be in business, education or the military – consistently embody these qualities.




Modern concept of power as a social and economic theory

The Concept of power

Power and Politics - Basic Concepts

Updated 2 October 2017, 23 November 2011

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