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Forms of Power


Organizations are units of operations that are formed for the sole aim of attaining particular objectives (Gee 123). Making profits or earning a return remains the most common objective of many entities. Within societies, there are alos several organizations that engage in non-profit operations geared towards the provision of certain social services. Notwithstanding the reason behind formation of a particular organization, the way in which an organization runs its operations and the structure of the management are important towards the attainment of the set goals. This paper analyses different forms of power within organizations.

It is noted that management teams are obliged to ensure the smooth running of operations within organizations. The functioning of such an entity is efficient and effective for the purpose for which the enterprise was formed. Power, which plays a critical role in the operations of an organization, is defined as the ability of an individual to influence others within an organizational setup. There are several forms of power.

Formal Power

Formal power is the influence that is expected or gained through the established structures within an organization (Petress 1-3). Those who occupy offices in the higher ranks have more power than those who work under them.For instance, a line manager would have power over technicians who work under his or her supervision. In the same line, a Chief Executive Officer has power over virtually all employees of an organization by the virtue of the office occupied. There are three forms of power under this category.

Coercive Power

Coercive power is exercised through the use of threats by an employee who occupies a higher position within an organization (Petress 1-3). Entities grant such power to employees to exercise in the execution of their roles. For example, a line manager who has powers to take or make any adverse decision on an employee can threaten those who work under him or her. Therefore, by the virtue of the higher ranking of the line manager, he would be exercising power by coercing junior employees. Employees would be forced to perform as directed or else they face the action. However as Montana and Charnov observed, coercive power may not necessarily lead to impressive performance by employees (130). It only puts them under immense pressure. A possibility that employees who feel threatened would perform dismally at the work place still remains.

Reward Power

Under the above category, power is gained by the use of incentives (Petress 1-3). Where a manager promises more leave days, a reward or any material benefit to an employee, reward power would has been exercised. Employees are influenced to improve their performance in order to benefit from a grant or a certain benefit. Workers also give in to demands by the promising party or individual in a bid to remain in contention for the award when it becomes due. Employees can be promised bonuses, a promotion, extra time off work and other benefits. Reward power can have a positive impact on employees since it motivates employees to offer their best towards the pursuit of organizational goals.

Legitimate Power

Legitimate form of power is gained through holding an office or a rank that is higher than the one another person holds (Petress 1-3). Junior employees are expected to take directions or orders from senior employees by virtue of the offices they occupy. Legitimate power can also be attained through being a member of an influential group or committee within an organization (Montana and Charnov 116). This power commands respect given the offices held by the bearers. An appropriate utilization of the power would call for sound directions in order to aid realization of organization objectives. Abuse of the power would lead to undesirable effects on the performance of the organization.

Personal Power

Expert Power

Expert power is earned due to the personal employee’s attributes, skills and experience (Petress 1-3). One is respected due to his/her professionalism and effectiveness demonstrated in the execution of his or her duties. Experts tend to be respected in their areas of training (Petress 1-3). They command and give directions when it comes to their areas of specialization due to the skills and experience that they hold. An appropriate use of the power increases the chances of attaining the desired goals, while inappropriate use predisposes an entity to failure. For example, a project manager would exercise expert power over a construction project. Likewise, an Architect or Surveyor would exercise the power whenever they supervise certain professional assignments.

Referent Power

Referent power is gained through the respect held for an employee because of his or her trustworthiness, or the exemplary manner of handling his or her work (Petress 1-3). Such cases involve situations where an employee fights for the rights of fellow workers or earns respect due to particular traits exhibited by the employee. Employees would tend to be influenced by such a person because of character and trust placed on him or her by other employees. For example, a union leader who represents employees would command referent power because of the resolve with which he or she fights for employees.

Experience of the Power

Having worked with a real estate firm called Heritage Property Consultants, I have experienced coercive power. My supervisor by the name Sam could threaten to sack employees whenever he wanted certain targets met. In that case, everyone would strive to meet his or her goals in order to avoid the punishment. On the same stance, reward power was exercised within the same organization. The supervisor would promise rewards at the end of the year for those who achieved set goals. Thus, we were motivated to achieve the goals. In so doing, our supervisor exercised the two forms of power. Another experience of power is expert power. As an Architect, I worked as a consultant in the design and construction of a commercial building block. The project manager was the consultant in charge of the project. Directions would be given from the project manager. Any clarifications and queries were directed to him. In that case, he exercised and enjoyed expert power.

Interview on Experience of Power

An interview was conducted regarding experience of power. The interviewee, Dennis, is an employee of Chevron. The interview was conducted on 11th November 2014 at his workplace over tea break. He acknowledged that he had experienced coercive power, expert power and referent power in the course of his work. Dennis observed that all forms of power are effective when exercised appropriately within the confines of an organization’s operations. However, he observed that abuse leads to negative effects to the organization.

Suggestions on Effective Use of Power

Dennis, our interviewee, noted that appropriate use of power would be beneficial to the welfare of an organization. Hence, managers and supervisors should strive to ensure that their use of power is right. The performance of an organization should be the main consideration as opposed to any selfish or personal gains. Therefore, practicing such would yield success and attainment of the objectives of an entity. For that reason, managers and supervisors are advised to stick to appropriate use of the powers conferred on them.


It is apparent that organizations have certain set objectives to achieve. Based on that, they use resources which include personnel. Human resources are one of the most important resources in pursuing organizational goals. Exercising power is done with a view to improving performance. Notably, power is bestowed on various offices and employees for structural order and effective functioning of an organization. Given that various forms of power exist within organizations, appropriate use is imperative for an organization to realize its objectives.