Power – Meaning, Types & Contingency approach to Power

Power – Meaning, Types & Contingency approach to Power

Power

 

PowerPower is simply a means of influence. It refers to the capacity that a person has to influence the behaviour of another person for doing something he/she may not normally do. It can be understood in terms of an Agent(person with power) and a Target(person to be influenced by power). Hence, A Manager (Agent) has a potential influence over his subordinate (Target). The Agent and the target are in a mutually dependent relationship and the Target may have some discretion over his/her behavior.

Basis of power →

(A) Positional Power – It is also known as formal power. It emerges from the position that an individual holds in an organization. Such a power remains the same irrespective of who holds it.

— Legitimate Power – It is based on agreement and commonly held values allowing one person to have power over another. It may be formal like authority delegated to senior officials in an organization or informal like respect for the elderly in a social unit.

 

— Reward Power – It is based on one’s control and allocation of material resources and rewards. In an organization, power is based on control over salaries, wages, commission, amenities etc. People comply with power because they get benefits out of compliance.

 

— Normative Power – Such a power is based on allocation and manipulation of symbolic rewards. Eg. Prestige, Affection, Self- esteem, Ego

 

— Coercive Power – It rests upon the application or threat of application of physical sanctions. Eg. Infliction of pain, deformity, death etc. In an organization it may be in form of threat of dismissal, suspension, demotion or embarrassment.

 

— Informative power – Such a power comes from access and control of information. Eg. Information of future course of action, financial data, Secret knowledge.

(B) Personal Power – It is personal and resides with a person, regardless of his position in an organization. It emerges from the qualities that are unique within a person. It can inspire loyalty and dedication.

 

— Expert Power – It is the influence which one enjoys as a result of one’s experience, special skill or knowledge.

 

— Referent Power – It is based on identification i.e. a process where a person copies the behaviour of other person whom he takes as an idol. People want to identified as their idol therefore they copy the behavior of the people they idolize.

 

— Charismatic Power – It emerge from an individual`s charisma, It is a quality that is unique to a person. Visionaries and Risk takers like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi had much higher influence due to their charismatic qualities.

Contingency approach to power →

It suggests that no particular power base is effective in all situations. Effectiveness of power depends upon matching of the power base and the situation requirements prevailing at the time of use of power. A Successful Manager is one who is aware of existence of multiple bases of power in work situations. The effectiveness of different power depends on the nature of managerial, subordinate and organization variables. The variables that affect power effectiveness are:-

 

                          Contingency model of Power effectiveness

Agent CharacteristicsOrganizational CharacteristicsTarget Characteristics 

Response

Organization’s positionOrganization structureDependencyResistance
PersonalityNature of taskUncertaintyObedience
 Performance evaluation and reward systemPersonalityCompliance
 Organization cultureIntelligenceConformity
  CultureCommitment

 

(A) Agent Characteristics → It determines the extent to which the influence exercised by an Agent will be effective or not. It may be a Manager, supervisor or a worker in a power relationship. The two characteristics of an agent that affects power effectiveness are:-

Organization position – It determines his positional power. The higher a person is in the hierarchy of an organization the higher power he has.

Personality –

(a) People with high mach score tend to use coercive and informational power more effectively.

(b) Conscientious people use legitimate and reward power more effectively.

(c) People with high self-esteem rely more on personal power than positional due to their expertise and skills.

(d) Extroverts influence with personal power more effectively.

 

(B) Target’s characteristics → There is a reciprocal relationship between Agent and Target. Therefore effectiveness of power also depends upon Target`s Characteristics. It is affected by the following power –

Influenceability – Degree to which a person accepts influence.

Dependency – Degree of Dependency of target on agent.

Uncertainty – Uncertainty in the mind of the Target about his/her behavior.  

Personality – People who are highly anxious and people with need for affiliation are more likely to be influenced than people with high self-esteem due to their personality.

Intelligence – Intelligent people are less susceptible to influence.

Culture – Depending upon the orientation of one`s culture towards authority a person may be more or less susceptible to influence.

(C) Organization Characteristics → An organization devises certain parameters within which power relation exists among people working together in an organization. The main factors that affect power relationships are:

Organization structure – It prescribes relationships among different positions and delegates authority.

Nature of task – The Autonomous nature and visibility of a task affects the power relationships. Individuals who work in autonomy are less susceptible to power influences. Tasks with High visibility (marketing) have more power than tasks with low visibility (human resource).

Performance Evaluation and Reward system – If the performance evaluation and reward system is faulty people working will be highly susceptible to influence.

Organization culture – Organization Culture refers to commonly held beliefs, values and norms in an organization. In an organization which creates a Conducive environment and adopts good management practices; personal power is more effective. Positional power is more effective in an organization with a rigid organization culture and processes.

 

Responses to Use of Power →

♦ Resistance – A person may resist the influence and may not agree to behave according to the influencer`s wishes.

♦ Obedience – The person is influenced and behaves against their wishes in order to obey the influencer.

♦ Compliance – A person may comply with the influencer in expectation of reward or due to fear of punishment.

♦ Conformity – A person may behave according to the influencer`s wish in order to gain acceptance in a social group.

♦ Commitment – The person shows commitment towards the influencer`s wish due to his passion for work and devotion for the influencer.

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