Definition and Meaning of Power
Distinctions between Power, Authority and Influence
Bases of Power
The Dependency Factor
Contingency Approaches to Power
Interdependence and Influencability
Overall Contingency Model for Power
Power in Groups: Coalitions
Definition and Nature of Politics
Factors Relating to Political Behavior
The Ethics of Power and Politics
Power and politics are among the most important concepts in the study of
organization behavior. Both power and politics are dynamic concepts and are a
function of the interaction between different elements in organizations.
Power has been defined as "the ability to influence and control anything that
is of value to others." It is the ability to influence the behavior of other
people in the organization and to get them to do what they otherwise would
not have done.
Although the terms power, authority and influence are often used
synonymously, there is a difference between them. Power is the ability to
effect a change in an individual or a group in some way. Power may or may not
be legitimate. That is, power need not correspond with a person's
organizational position. Authority, on the other hand, is legitimate. It is
the power which is sanctioned by the organization and is often the 'source'
of power. Influence is a much broader concept than both power and authority.
French and Raven, social psychologists, identified five sources of power -
coercive, reward, legitimate, expert and referent. Coercive power is based on
fear and is the ability to influence another person through threats or fear
of punishment. Reward power is a positive power which refers to the ability
to get things done through others on the basis of one's power to grant
rewards. Legitimate power depends on organizational position and authority.
It refers to the power conferred by a person's organizational position.
Expert power is derived from a person's expertise or specialized knowledge of
a certain subject that is perceived as important to the organization. And
referent power is based on people's identification with a certain individual
and their attempt to emulate his behavior. The person who acts as a model for
reference has power over the person who emulates his behavior.
Dependency is the most important concept of power. The degree of dependence
of the target determines the power exercised by the agent. Dependency is a
function of importance, scarcity and non substitutability of the resources
controlled by a person.
Contingency approaches to power are also gaining importance. The contingency
approach suggests that power depends on being in the 'right place' at the
right time and the influencability of the target. The overall contingency
model combines the theories of French and Raven with those of Herbert Kelman
and identifies the three main processes of power, namely, compliance,
identification and internalization.
When people lose power, they try to regain it individually, or by forming a
coalition with other less powerful people. Organizational coalitions are
different from political coalitions in some basic ways.
Organizational politics is often called 'power in action.' Politics may be
legitimate (within sanctioned organizational limits) or illegitimate
(exceeding sanctioned organizational limits) in nature. The degree of
politicking engaged in depends on individual as well as organizational
factors. Individual politicking is a function of the person's power motive,
personality factors and background, and current work environment.
Organizational politicking is a function of culture, goal and role clarity
and the attitude of top management.
Considerable importance has also been given to the ethical aspects of power
and politics. It is not always easy to develop ethical standards because of
the ambiguous and subjective nature of certain actions.