Power and Politics in Organizations


By: Site Engineer, Staff

full bio

Power is somewhat different from authority. While authority is delegated by higher management, power is earned and gained by leadership, on the basis of their personalities, activities and the situation in which they operate.

Politics has been a classic human activity since the beginning of civilization, so it is not unique to the modern organization.

Observers have said that leaders who are otherwise capable but work lack basic political wills-and-skills will have trouble rising to the top in a modern organization.

Types of Power

Power develops in a number of ways. Following are the major types of organizational power and their sources.

1. Political Power

This type of power comes from the support of a group. It arises from a leader’s ability to work with people and social systems to gain their allegiance and support. It develops in all organizations.

2. Reward Power

This is based on the capacity to control and provide valued rewards to others. Most organizations offer an array of rewards that may be under a manager’s control, including pay raises, bonuses, interesting projects, promotion recommendations, a better office, support for training programmes, assignments with high visibility in the organization, recognition, positive feedback, and time off.

3. Legitimate Power

This is also called position power or office power. This type of power comes from a higher authority. It arises from the culture of society by which power is delegated legitimately from higher established authorities to others. It gives leaders the power to control resources and to reward and punish others. Normally, people accept this power because they believe it is desirable and necessary to maintain order and discourage anarchy in society.

4. Coercive Power

This depends on the ability to punish others when they do not engage in desired behaviors. Forms of coercion or punishment that a manager may be empowered to use include criticisms, reprimands, suspensions, warning letters, that go into an individual’s personnel file, negative performance appraisals, demotions, withheld pay raises, and terminations.

5. Referent Power

This is also called personal power, charismatic power, and power of personality. This is the type of power comes from each leader individually. It is the ability of leaders to develop followers from the strength of their own personalities. They have a personal magnetism, an air of confidence, and a belief in objectives that attracts and holds followers.

These types of leaders are always admired, personally identified with, or liked by others.

6. Information Power

This type of power results from access to, and control over, the distribution of important information about organizational operations and future plans. Managers usually have better access to such information than do subordinates and some discretion over how much is disseminated to work members.

7. Expert Power

This is also called the authority of knowledge. This comes from specialized learning or the possession of expertise that is valued by others. Managers often have considerable knowledge, technical skills, and experience that can be critical to subordinates’ success.


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