The term "power" considered a domain, empire, faculty and jurisdiction that someone has to command or execute something. Thus, this power would include the ability or ability to force someone to behave in a certain way (Mulder, DeJong, Koppelaar and Verhage, 1986), or, as it is commonly said, to get away with a social situation. In this article, we will talk about The Powers In The Company: Types And Forms Of Evaluation.
After a review of the different definitions of power that can be found in the literature on Work Psychology, identify a series of elements common to all of them. Thus power implies:
- get an effect (get away with it)
- occurs during a social interaction (two or more people)
- supposes the ability to influence others
- the results favor either party.
Positive power and negative power
A first classification of power within companies would be the one that distinguishes between positive power and negative power.
On the one hand, in the organization, the term power can be associated with activities such as guiding, influencing, persuading or selling, and even power can be constructive (Emans, Munduate, Klaver and Van de Vliert, 2003).
But power can also be associated with terms such as force, oppress or coerce. Thus, in this scenario, power is ambivalent, although the positive face or collective power as Roberts (1986) called it is the one that prevails in companies, as various studies have shown in the face of the more negative face or competitive power (Roberts, 1986 ; Patchen, 1984). For example, problem-solving and consensus-building tactics are much more popular in companies than coercive tactics.
Formal and informal power
Another classification of the different types of power derives from the Bifactorial theory of Social Power proposed by Meliá (Meliá and Peiró, 1984; Peiró and Melia, 2003). Here two fundamental types of power are distinguished: formal power and informal power.
Formal power refers to the control that a certain person has over the exchange of resources within the organization and is linked to the hierarchical position that it occupies within said organization. This type of power is based on the ability to exchange scarce resources and is a vertical, descending and also asymmetric type of power, so that the more power a certain person X has over Y, the less power Y will have over X.
Given this, informal power is not necessarily linked to the formal structure of the companyand it does derive more from the person's own sources; It can spread both vertically and horizontally and is of great interest since it is based on the positive aspect of relationships within the company having beneficial effects for the company.
Thus, for example, positive relationships are anticipated between informal power and communication and contact between workers and negative relationships with conflicts, since, the more communication, which is facilitated by this type of informal power, the fewer conflicts and greater ease in resolving existing conflicts. Precisely, a fundamental area of study within Industrial Psychology is related to the management of conflicts within the organization.
Since conflicts, to a greater or lesser extent, are always going to be there, a primary interest is to prevent them from becoming detrimental to the organization and to learn to resolve them productively (Robbins, 1974).
Personal and positional power
Whetten and Cameron (1991) identify two sources of power within organizations which are: a) personal power and b) the power of position.
The first would be related to the experience of the person, their personal attractiveness, effort and legitimacy.
On the other hand, the power of the position would have five different origins that are:
- the position that the person has within an information and communication network;
- the importance of the work done by that person;
- their degree of discretion at work;
- the visibility that the work carried out by that person has in the face of influential people and
- how important the task is to the company's objectives.
How to get power
On the other hand, Mintzberg (1985) distinguishes five possible sources of power within organizations, which are: the possibility of controlling a certain resource, the control of a certain technical skill, knowledge of a specific area, legal prerogatives, and finally , the worker's ability to access people who have power in any of the first four bases.
Thus, it is not only interesting to have power but also to have the ability to access people who have power, that is, the ability to relate to people who exercise power in any of the aforementioned bases.
However, when it comes to identifying the bases of power, it is the proposal of French and Raven (1959) that has achieved the greatest popularity. Despite the passage of time, these types of social power continue to be main actors in any manual of Industrial Psychology, and, also today, they continue to be elements from which to develop Organizational Development strategies. Specifically, these authors distinguish five types of power:
- Reward power. Based on the ability that within the organization a person has to administer positive incentives in order to achieve certain results or behaviors among employees.
- Coercive power. Based on the ability of a person to administer sanctions and punishments. That is, a person's ability to give something that a second person values negatively.
- Legitimate power. Based on the belief that whoever possesses power has a legitimate right to exercise it and whoever receives the consequences of this power has a legitimate obligation to accept it. This type of power is backed by the organization's rules, which workers abide by.
- Referring power . It is based on the possession of certain traits that are valuable to other people. Thus, the person who receives the consequences of power feels an attraction or feeling of unity with respect to the person who is exercising power.
- Expert power. Based on the knowledge, experience or skills that the person with power has and that other members of the organization want.
- Another form of power proposed by these authors is situated within the power of the expert and is the so-called informational power. This type of power is based on the possession of information, the ability to obtain and manage it. This type of power is very important in organizations since information is the raw material used in decision-making processes and has great weight over influence processes.
As noted, this last proposal has enjoyed great popularity, and the result of it has been the development of different instruments to evaluate each of these types of power within organizations. Specifically, three were the most popular scales used to evaluate the different types of power: the Student scale (1968), the Thamhain and Gemmill scale (1974) and the Batchman, Smith and Slesinger scale (1966) the latter being the most prominent.
However, years later, various authors pointed out psychometric deficiencies in these first scales(Rahim, 1988; Melia, Oliver and Tomas, 1993). Faced with this situation, in 1988 Rahim published his Rahim Inventory on the Power of the Leader (RLPI) which has been shown to be valid and with adequate psychometric properties in different studies (Hess and Wagner, 1999; Rahim and Magner, 1996). This inventory assesses the employee's perception of the power that a supervisor or leader possesses and is made up of a total of 29 items. Specifically, five items are used to assess coercive power and six for each of the remaining types of power proposed by French and Raven: reward, expert, referent, and legitimate power. The response scale of this inventory is of the Likert type with 5 response options where the higher values represent a greater perception of power.