Organizational Power: What is Power?
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that: ‘life is a search after power’. If that is true, what is it we are searching for? We need to start our exploration of power in organizations by understanding what is power?
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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:
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
French and Raven: Social Power Bases in Organizations https://youtu.be/wLtTu8B0aek
Empowerment: The Organization Giving up its Power https://youtu.be/B4-_u51mffk
‘the ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something.’
In the workplace, it’s the ability to get others to do what you want them to do.
But there is something else in common usage: the ability to exert influence over people – and not merely by the strength of your arguments.
And for some people, gathering this kind of power to stand above your peers is a very desirable outcome. Take a look at our video – in our Motivation Course, on David McClelland’s three motivational needs: https://youtu.be/jxNhGE3gPcA
In the work context, we need to consider two types of power:
1. Organizational power – to compel compliance in their members, employees, or subjects
2. Individual power – to make things happen within their organizations
Sources of Power
In its simplest form, we’ll find that organizations have two sources of power:
1. the power to coerce
2. the power to reward
b. in abstract, symbolic ways
And individuals also have two sources of power:
1. Power Granted by their organization
2. Power Earned by their own endeavors
b. By seizing power
It’s worth talking a little more about power seized here, because I shan’t be returning to it. The ‘strong man’ model of power sees the power player (more often than not, an actual man) seizing power.
But this is a matter of perspective. At the point of transfer, the prior holders of power (willingly or not) granted power. And, in the view of the new power-holder, I am fairly sure they believe they earned it. And, arguably, they did – even if the work was unsavory.
We can see that organizations and people can grant these levers over others willingly or unwillingly. If I give in to coercion or bribery, is that you taking power over me, or me ceding that power to you?
Consider your experiences of organizational life. What examples of power can you identify. How would you classify them and what are the sources of power in those examples? (3 MC CPD Points)
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– 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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