The Five Bases Of Power Management Essay

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The five bases of power are identified as coercive, reward, legitimate, referent and expert power. Coercive power is based on the idea of coercion. This is forcing someone to do something that they would prefer not to do. The ultimate goal of this power style is compliance. The manifestations of harm are often used to illustrate what will happen if compliance is not gained. Other forms of power can also be used in a coercive manner, for example, when the reward or experience is withheld or referent power is used to threaten social exclusion. The coercive power has been shown to be related to punitive behaviors that may be beyond the expectations of a normal function. But coercion has also been positively related to general punitive behavior and negatively associated with contingent reward behavior. The source of power can often lead to problems and in many cases involves abuse. The coercive power can lead to unhealthy behavior and job dissatisfaction. Coercive leaders rely on the use of threats in their leadership style. Often they involve threats that someone will be fired or demoted.

Reward power means having the ability to manage other things he / she wants, or to remove or decrease things he or she does not want. For supervisors in an organizational framework, is the perceived ability to present his subordinates with the results that are valued positively. This type of power is based on the idea that we as a society are more likely to do things and do them well, when we are getting something from it. The most popular are offering raises, promotions, and simple compliments. The problem with this approach is when you exhaust the available rewards, or rewards do not have enough perceived value to others, his power is weakened. One of the frustrations with the use of rewards is that they often have to be bigger every time if they want to have the same motivational impact. Even then, if the rewards are given frequently, people can be satisfied by the reward, so it loses its effectiveness.

An example of the use of reward power is demonstrated in the provided scenario.

Employee 1 has worked in the marketing department of the corporation for 12 years.

In the marketing department, employees who earn a superior ranking in their annual performance evaluation will receive a big bonus at the end of the year. Employee 1often comes to the office on weekends or stays late to ensure that work is complete and accurate. The marketing manager encourages employees to work beyond the required 40 hours a week, reminding them of the yearly bonus for receiving a superior rating on their next evaluation. Employee 1 is planning to use the bonus for a well deserved vacation would be unattainable without the bonus.

The marketing manager is leveraging reward power in the fact that Employee 1 puts in extra effort to work towards receiving a superior rating on his next review. There is an extreme risk for Employee 1 under this approach. Unless coming into the office on weekends or staying late to ensure the work is complete and accurate is clearly defined in the performance evaluation criteria as the key performance indicator, Employee 1 could be disappointed if his performance evaluation does not result in the rewards he is expecting. If Employee 1 does not receive the bonus he has invested in, he may be unwilling or less motivated to put forth the extra effort going forward.

Legitimate power involves the ability to manage feelings of obligation or the notion of responsibility towards others. Reward and punishment of subordinates is generally seen as a legitimate part of the official positions or appointed leadership role and management in most work organizations carry a certain level of expected reward and punishment. Legitimate power is typically based on a person's role in the organization. People traditionally obey the person with this power solely on the basis of their position or title rather than the particular person as a leader. Therefore this type of power can be dissolved with the loss of a job or position. This power is therefore not strong enough to be the only way to influence /persuade others.

Referent power is holding the ability to manage one's feelings of personal acceptance or personal approval. This type of power is strong enough that the holder of power is often admired as a role model. This power is often regarded as admiration or charm. The power derives from one person having an overall likability leading people to strongly identify with them in one form or another. A person with this type of power in general, makes people feel good around them therefore one has a lot of influence. The responsibility involved is heavy and one can easily lose this power, but when combined with other forms of power it can be very useful. Celebrities often have this kind of power in society and conversely they often lose it rapidly in some circumstances. Referent power is commonly seen in the political and military figures.

Employee 3 works in the sales department of Corporation A. Employee 3 has only been with the Corporation a little over a year, while the majority of employees in the sales department have been with the company for three years or more. Employee 3 is very well liked, very charismatic, positive, and people seem to be naturally drawn to the personality of the Employee 3. During a recent sales meeting, Employee 3 launched a new idea to increase sales. At first, the other team members were unsure whether the idea fits with corporate culture. At the end of the sales pitch, the whole department was excited about the new program and eager to work on the project. Despite the short tenure of Employee 3 in the corporation and inexperience in being a team lead, Employee 3 was selected to lead the team in this project based on the enthusiasm and admiration received from of his colleagues.

Employee 3 is demonstrating referent power in the provided scenario. His likeability, charm and general magnetism draws others to him and he is gaining support and being positioned in a leadership role because of this 'soft skill' power.

The downside of this type of power being utilized is the fact that if Employee 3 does not have adequate skills to do the job. He could be seen as having all 'style and not substance' which could impact his likeability and position on the team.

Expert power is the ability to manage to another person's information, knowledge or experience. Leaders who have this kind of power are often experts in their field, and trust their ability to perform various organizational tasks and functions. Same examples are doctors and lawyers, who are specialists in their disciplines. This power makes one able to combine the power of reward in the right way. When someone has expert knowledge in an organization, people are more convinced to trust them and respect their opinions. When your experience is valued, so are his ideas and leadership.

Employee 2 is the only certified public accountant (CPA) in the accounting department of the Corporation A. Employee 2 has negotiated with the accounting manager to work a four day work week and is the only person in that department allowed to work a compressed work week. The accounting manager agreed to a shortened work week because Employees 2 is the only employee who can prepare the financial statements of the company.

Expert power is demonstrated by Employee 2 in the provided scenario. Employee 2, because of his expertise in accounting, was able to leverage this experience and knowledge and use the expert power method, to gain extra benefits and receive a more favorable work week.

This type of power in this scenario could cause repercussions by causing animosity and ill feelings among Employee's peers in the corporation.


The relationships between dependency and power are indentified in the components of the given scenario and discussed below.

In the given scenario, the dependency level between Employee 1 and the marketing manager is very high. Employee 1 is dependent on the performance evaluation of the marketing manager and the marketing manager's interpretation of the performance criteria. The bonus that Employee 1 is working for and investing is time in to achieve, is completely dependent on the marketing manager. In most performance evaluations, the evaluation is subjective based on the manager. Even if Employee 1 works hard and puts in extra effort, if the marketing manager determines the extra work is 'expected' and that Employee 1 only 'meets requirements' for the position, he will not receive the high ranking that is required to receive the bonus,

In the given scenario, the dependency level between Employee 2 and the accounting manager is high. Because of Employee 2's expertise, he was able to manipulate the accounting manager to receive additional benefits in the corporation. The accounting manager is responsible for providing this power to Employee 2. Rather than simply leveraging the expertise of Employee 2 as a valuable member of the team, the accounting manager allowed this extra benefits situation to develop and provide Employee 2 with this power. A stringer leader would not have allowed this power to develop.

In the given scenario, the dependency level between Employee 3 and the other members of the sales team is low and very fragile. Employee 3 has been provided this power by the other team members based off 'soft skills' and not expertise or tangible skills. Because this power is not based on tactical skills, this power could be fleeting.

In conclusion, in terms of the relationship between dependency and power, the greater the dependency someone has on the person providing the power, the greater the power this person can have over the dependent person. When you posses anything that others require but that you alone control, you make them dependent on you and, therefore you gain power over them. Dependency then is inversely proportional to the alternative sources of supply. If something is plentiful, possession of it will not increase your power. If everyone is intelligent, intelligence gives no special advantage. Similarly among the superrich money is no longer power. But, as the old saying goes, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. If you can create a monopoly by controlling information prestige, or anything that others crave, they become dependent on you. Conversely the more that you can expand your options the less power you place in the hands of others. Dependency is increased when the resources you control are important, scarce, and non-substitutable. To create dependency, therefore the thing(s) you control must be perceived as being important.