French and Raven: Social Power Bases in Organizations
French and Raven described the sources of power that people have as ‘social power bases’.
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The Nature of Organizations
This video is part of course module number 6.1.3
Program 6: Managing within Organizations
Course 1: The Nature of Organizations
Section 3: Power in Organizations
Other videos in this section include:
What is Power? https://youtu.be/mIlnEkzIiHs
Amitai Etzioni: How Organizations Secure Compliance https://youtu.be/4mSdeda8elk
Robin Fincham: Three Levels of Organizational Power https://youtu.be/Qcd_UcHGCe8
The Power of Governance https://youtu.be/QI4pGksO4Ns
Empowerment: The Organization Giving up its Power https://youtu.be/B4-_u51mffk
John French and Bertram Raven described the sources of power that people have, listing five categories that they called ‘social power bases’.
The word ‘social’ implies that power exists because of the relationship between the holder and the person who is dependent on the holder. This is contrary to other views that power is a part of the organization (as Etzioni implied – https://youtu.be/4mSdeda8elk ) or of individuals themselves.
These are derived from the resources that the holder has at their disposal.
1. Legitimate Power – seniority of position
2. Reward Power – ability to offer inducements
3. Coercive Power – ability to impose sanctions
4. Expert Power – skills and expertise
5. Referent Power – personal characteristics; charisma
Subsequently, they added a further two.
6. Information Power – the knowledge you can access
7. Connection Power – the people you can access
Also Hierarchical Power – comes from your place in a hierarchy and depends on other people’s willingness to defer to your seniority. Tied to your role, most effective in autocratic organizations and when dealing with a crisis.
Comes from ability to reward performance and offer inducements to secure it. What rewards will be effective is the subject of theories of motivation. They need not be material – recognition and praise are often highly valued.
Evil twin of Reward Power – comes from ability to make credible threats of punishment. Motivation based on fear is often successful, but it is not sustainable in organizations where members have choices.
Granting or withholding resources might be seen as Reward or Coercive Power, but this explains how relatively low-status administrators acquire power in organizations: from their position as ‘gate-keeper’ to a valued resource.
Comes from the expertise you have from study, practice, and experience. You are in control of this power although it takes constant investment to keep it up-to-date.
Comes from the information you hold, or can access. Could be seen as a form of resource power, but in many sectors of today’s economy, ‘knowledge workers’ access information themselves: power over resources is granted by the organization.
Comes from the people you know and your ability to deploy a network of relationships to good effect. You can harness their power positively (expertise, information) or negatively (coercion).
True personal power – often called charisma. Comes from how people view you: integrity, personality, character, likeability, and rapport with others. One power base which no one can strip from you, so is well worth investing in.
1. What power bases do you hold within different organizations (work or social) that you are a part of? (2 MC CPD Points)
2. Survey the people you work with. What social power bases do they hold? (2 MC CPD Points)
– Understanding Organizations https://geni.us/oB774Do
– Images of Organization https://geni.us/hrOemEs
– Inside Organizations: 21 Ideas for Managers https://geni.us/YwwL
– Gods of Management: The Four Cultures of Leadership https://geni.us/bpPeC5
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