Organizational Power and politics are among the most important concepts in the study of
organization behaviour. 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 behaviour of other people in the organization and to get them
to do what they otherwise would not have done.
The term power may be applied to individuals, groups, teams, departments, organizations,
and countries. For example, a certain team within an organization might be labelled as
powerful, which suggests that it has the ability to influence the behaviour of individuals in
other teams or departments. This influence may affect resource allocations, space
assignments, goals, hiring decisions, and many other outcomes and behaviours in an
organization. Power can be used in a very constructive way. Power is considered central for
development of nursing as a profession, as lack of it make nursing personal less satisfied with
Definition of power in nursing,
1. Power has been defined as having control, influence, or domination over somethings
2. The ability to get thing done, to mobilize resources, and use whatever it is , that a
person needs for the goal he or she is attempting to meet
3. Power may be viewed as a positive infinite source that helps to establish possibility
that people can free themselves from oppression.
Influence is …
a. What you have when you exercise power.
b. Expressed by others’ behavioral response to your exercise of power.
Sources of power:
There is no universal definition that exists. In 1984, in one of the international seminar
organized in London sources of power were categorised in to two:
1. Formal power
2. Informal Power
Power which has been granted by virtue of position in hierarchical structure.
This is personal power created by a person through social interaction called influence rather
Types of power:
– Derives from organizational sources.
– Types of position power.
• Reward power.
• Coercive power.
• Legitimate power.
• Process power.
• Information power.
• Representative power.
– Derives from individual sources.
– Types of personal power.
• Expert power.
• Rational persuasion.
• Referent power.
It is the extent to which a manager can use extrinsic and intrinsic rewards to
control other people. It involves positive sanctions. Sub ordinate perceives that
compliance with wishes of his senior leads to reward monetary as pay,
promotion, and assignments, or psychologicallyas- praise, recognition,
verbal approval memorandum of thanks, recognizing publicly.
A manager who has complete control over rewards has good deal of power. Success in
accessing and utilizing rewards depends on manager’s skills.
Coercive power is an individual’s ability to influence others’ behaviours by
punishing their undesirable behaviours. For example, subordinates may
comply because they expect to be punished for failure to respond favourably
to managerial directives. It involves negative sanctions and based upon fear. It
is the extent to which a manager can deny desired rewards or administer
punishments to control other people.
Punishment may take the form of reprimands, undesirable work assignments,
closer supervision, tighter enforcement of work rules, suspension without pay,
and the like. The organization’s ultimate punishment is to fire the employee
it’s availability varies from one organization and manager to another.
Also known as, formal hierarchical authority, Legitimate power most often
refers to a manager’s ability to influence subordinates’ behaviors because of
the manager’s formal position in the organization. Subordinates may respond
to such influence because they acknowledge the manager’s legitimate right to
prescribe certain behaviours. Sometimes nonmanagerial employees possess
legitimate power, for example a nurse can refuse to carry out a treatment based
on her knowledge if she finds that it will be harmful for the patient, even if
prescribed by a specialist.
If legitimacy is lost, authority will not be accepted by subordinates.
– The control over methods of production and analysis.
– Places an individual in the position of:
• Influencing how inputs are transformed into outputs.
• Controlling the analytical process used to make choices.
– Those in a position to control information about current operations, develop
information about alternatives, or acquire knowledge about future events and
plans have enormous power to influence the behaviors of others. May
complement legitimate hierarchical power. It may be granted to specialists and
managers in the middle of the information system.
– People may “protect” information in order to increase their power.
– The formal right conferred by the firm to speak as a representative for a
potentially important group composed of individuals across departments or
outside the firm.
– Helps complex organizations deal with a variety of constituencies.
Position Characteristics Associated with Power
CHARACTERISTIC DEFINITION EXAMPLE
Centrality Relationship among positions in a
More-central positions will
have greater power
Criticality Relationships among tasks
performed in a workflow process.
Positions responsible for the
most critical tasks will have
Flexibility Amount of discretion in decision
making, work assignments, and so
will have more power.
Visibility Degree to which task performance is
seen by higher management in the
More-visible positions will
have more power
Relevance Relationship between tasks and
high-priority organisational goal
Positions most closely
related to important goals
will have more power
– The ability to control another person’s behavior through the possession of
knowledge, experience, or judgment that the other person needs but does not
have. It is relative, not absolute.
– Expert power is an individual’s ability to influence others’ behaviors because
of recognized competencies, talents, or specialized knowledge. To the extent
that managers can demonstrate competence in implementing, analyzing,
evaluating, and controlling the tasks of subordinates, they will acquire expert
power. Expert power often is relatively narrow in scope. For example, a team
member at hospital might carefully follow the advice of her team leader about
how to administer a treatment to patient, yet ignore advice from the team
leader regarding which of three company health plans she should choose. In
this instance, the team member is recognizing expertise in one area while
resisting influence in another.
– The ability to control another person’s behavior by convincing the other
person of the desirability of a goal and a reasonable way of achieving it.
– Much of a supervisor’s daily activity involves rational persuasion.
– The ability to control another’s behavior because the person wants to identify
with the power source. Referent power is an individual’s ability to influence
others’ behaviors as a result of being respected, admired, or liked. For
example, subordinates’ identification with a manager often forms the basis for
referent power. This identification may include the desire of subordinates to
emulate the manager.
A young manager may copy the leadership style of an older, admired, and more experienced
manager. The older manager thus has some ability—some referent power—to influence the
behavior of the younger manager. Referent power usually is associated with individuals who
possess admired personality characteristics, charisma, or a good reputation. Thus it often is
associated with political leaders, movie stars, sports figures, or other well known individuals
(hence their use in advertising to influence consumer behaviour). However, managers and
employees also may have considerable referent power because of the strength of their
It is based on manager or leader’s connection with powerful/ important person.
The concept of resources as power suggests that individuals, teams, or departments who can
provide essential or difficult-to-obtain resources acquire power in the organization.
The concept of knowledge as power means that individuals, teams, or departments that
possess knowledge crucial to attaining the organization’s goals have power.
Sources of Powerlessness
POSITION LACK OF POWER DUE TO:
First-line Routine jobs characterized by rigid rules
supervisors Limited access to information Limited advancement possibilities Staff
professionals Tasks viewed as peripheral to the “real work” of the organization
Blocked careers Easy replacement by outside experts
Top executives Limited or blocked lines of information from lower levels of
organization Lack of control of lines of supply Reduced lines of
support due to political challenges from special-interest groups or other
members of the public
Consequences of Power;
Based on the type of power used by manager, will definitely effect his/ her behaviour. An
individual manager may have all types of power and may use them in different ways.
The use of power may lead to three general types of response from employee:
Referentpower: One of the most positive use of this power is process of role
Advantages • The advantages to reference power means that people want to follow you
because they like a respect you. It will show that you have a very loyal band of followers.
Disadvantages • To be able to have this kind of leadership you need to be able to have a
friendly yet business like relationship with your employers, so a Boss that doesn’t have that
relationship wont be able to have a reference relationship with their employers.
It’s often considered the most extreme form of autocratic leaders. Frequent use of reprimands
and a hostile attitude, threatening subordinates with the loss of status, loss of employment or
in extreme cases physical force. Staff are often scared of being shouted at or being sacked.
This fear empowers the manager.
Some (however few), can be motivated to work hard under these conditions. If employees
respond positively then the workforce can have a very positive, productive output. Employees
can be motivated to acquire similar levels of power.
• Few people can handle it. Some will not tolerate it, leading to a high labour turnover
Subordinates feel isolated and unable to communicate any ideas. Limited communication.
No sense of positive motivation and reinforcement. Employees often don’t feel wanted or
Legitimate power is power you derive from your formal position or office held in your
organisation’s hierarchy of authority. For example, the leader of an organisation had certain
powers because of the position they holds within the organisation.
enables for a clear hierarchy/organisational structure so subordinates know exactly - can
often increase leaders effectiveness, in the way of being a strong role model, a sense of trust
and vision, strong moral code and high expectations which can create a very productive
workforce - many people are used to accepting and using legitimate power
leaders can sometime abuse their powers, for example miss deadlines or tries to exercise
their power over those whom they do not have legitimate power over - It does not alway
result in effective and flexible organisations, it gives employees power because of their role,
rather than because they have particular skills and talents.
is the power to give someone a reward. This could be because they have done a good job or
all employees get a basic level of rewards. Rewards can be given in bonus or money off
products that the business, that they work for make.
Advantages: ◦ Promotes good behaviour. Increases output. Promotes loyalty to the business
they work for.
Disadvantages: ◦ Rewards can loses value if the same reward is keep given out. Some things
which people may consider a reward others may not. It also costs the business money as it
pays for the rewards.
Ability to influence other parties based on expertise and knowledge. Expert power in an
organization is the ability to influence the behavior of others in the organization based solely
on past experience and expertise in a specific area.
Advantage : prevent other employees acquiring their particular knowledge and skills. Offer
subordinates some elements of their particular knowledge and skills to gain their support and
respect. Staff are more willing to accept instruction.
Disadvantage: Too bossy. Overconfidence. if the expert's knowledge is shared, his power
will probably diminish over time. if the expert does not share his knowledge, then the
organization will not be as effective.
Perspective of Organizational Power:
1. Functionalist Perspective:
It indicates that power is utilized during decision making, to achieve intended
2. Critical Perspective:
Power is conceptualized as domination. As the dominant group in an organization
attempts to exercise power to manipulate discourse of organization on behalf of itself.
Political behaviour involves attempts by some to influence the behaviours of others and the
course of events in the organization in order to protect their self-interests, meet their own
needs, and advance their own goals.
Organizational politics involves actions by individuals, teams, or departments to
acquire, develop, and use power and other resources in order to obtain preferred outcomes
when uncertainty or disagreement about choices exists. When people share power, but differ
about what must be done, many decisions and actions quite naturally will be the result of a
1. Organizational politics is the process of using an informal network to gain power
and accomplish tasks to meet a person's wants or needs. Organizational politics may
be a positive practice when the greater good of the company is affected. However, it
can also be negative when people promote self-interests.
2. It is defined as intentional social influence process in which behaviour is strategically
designed to maximize short term or long term self-interests.
3. Organizational politics is the process of using an informal network to gain power and
accomplish tasks to meet a person's wants or needs.
4. The pursuit of individual agendas and self-interest in an organization without regard
to their effect on the organization's efforts to achieve its goals.
Level Of Organizational Politics:
Individual Level :-- Personal self-interests are perused by individual.
Coalition Level :-- An informal group (co-operative) pursuit of group specific issues.
Network Level :-- Political network are people oriented , a co- operative group pursuit of
Characteristics of Organizational politics:
Vigoda (2003) describes organizational politics as a unique domain of human relation. Its
main characteristics are:
1. Readiness of people to use power in in their efforts to influence others.
2. To secure personal or collective interests.
3. To avoid negative outcome within the organization.
Techniques Used In Organizational Politics:
1. Attacking And Blaming • Targeting on other’s • Blaming other’s • Not accepting
2. Controlling Information • Maintaining secrets • Incomplete information • Wrong
information • Destroying information
3. Forming Coalitions • Forming negative aspects on others • Groupism • Rationalism
4. Controlling line of communication: people who have some control over the line of
communication can yield political power.
5. Using outside power: Opinion of outside expert carry much weight in an
organization and can be a good political move.
6. Game playing: It involves employees doing something insincere but not outright
illegal or unethical.
7. Image Building: It is creating positive impression reflected by personality,
appearance, style and competency.
8. Controlling agenda: This also gives a person power over information.
Factors Contributing to PoliticalBehaviour: Politics is an essential skill in
manager who wish to get things done. The art of how to get people on your side is crucial and
has an impact on human resource.
1. Individual Factors:
High Self Monitor • More sensitive to social cues • Exhibits higher levels of social
conformity, and • More likely to be skilled in political behavior
Individuals With An Internal Locus Of Control • More prone to take a proactive stance •
Attempt to manipulate situations in their favor
High Machiavellian Personality • Will to manipulate, and • Desire for power – is
comfortable using politics as a means to further his or her self-interest
Organizational Investment • The more a person has invested in the organization in terms of
expectations of increased future benefits, the more that person has to lose if forced out and
the less likely he or she is to use illegitimate means.
Perceived Job Alternatives • The more alternative job opportunities an individual has – due
to a favourable job market or the possession of scarce skills or knowledge, a prominent
reputation, or influential contacts outside the organization – the more likely that individual is
to risk illegitimate political actions.
Declining Resources • People may engage in political actions to safeguard what they have •
Stimulate conflict and increase politicking
Promotion Opportunities • Encourages people to compete for a limited resource • Try to
positively influence the decision outcome
Low Trust • The higher the level of political behaviour, and • The more likely that the
political behaviour will be of the illegitimate kind.
Role Ambiguity • Means that the prescribed behaviours of the employee are not clear.
Unclear Performance Evaluation System • Subjective performance criteria • Single
outcome measure • The amount of time that elapses between an action and its appraisal
Democratic Decision Making • Managers in these organizations are being asked to behave
more democratically. • They are told that they should allow employees to advise them on
decisions and that they should rely to a greater extent on group input into the decision process
High Performance Pressures • The more pressure that employees feel to perform well, the
more likely they are to engage in politicking.
Self-Serving Senior Managers• When employees see the people on top engaging in political
behaviour, especially when they do so successfully and are rewarded for it, a climate is
created that supports politicking.
Consequences Of Organizational politics:
Decrease in overall productivity
Spoils the Ambience
Low job satisfaction
Managing Organizational Politics:
Though its impossible to eliminate political behaviour in an organization, its always possible
to reduce it, if a manager understands why employees using it. Accordingly combating
politics must be undertaken by top level management, and some of the steps that can be under
Knowledge About Political Behaviour: Nurse manager should have thorough knowledge
about political behaviour and must understand the purpose and technique of political
behaviour used by employee, so that she can take appropriate measures to handle or stop it.
Eliminate factors Causing politics: Investigate the factors influencing organizational
politics and use problem solving approach with open mind to eliminate or handle it.
Provision Of Sufficient Resources:Nurse manager should provide sufficient resources to
staff working under her, and also inform them about any impending shortage. Always involve
staff in planning and decision making.
Introduce Clear Rules: Uncertainty in forms of ambiguous goals or roles, and changes that
affect the organization, tends to increase the politics. Reducing such uncertainty can reduce
Free Flow of Information: Staff should get the opportunity to express their grievances.
Problem must be found out and there should be solution to that problem. Open
communication can reduce political activity.
Quick action: Nurse managers who develop ability to recognize and predict political activity
are in best position to limit it. Increase in political activity is expected with change in
Manage change Effectively: Make the subordinates aware about which is going to take
place. Discuss with them and value their opinion.
Remove Political Norms: Understand existing norm of politics, if any, in organization, and
try to remove it.
Hire Low Political Staff:
At the time of recruitment try to hire the staff which are least interested in politics.
Have Peer Pressure Against Politics
Summary: Power and politics play an important role in functioning of any organization.
Manager with good understanding of the factors and consequences can motivate employees
to perform better for self and organization.