Dependency: The Key to power

The general Dependency Postulates: Let’s begin with a general postulate: The greater B’s dependency on A, the greater the power A has over B. 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. This explains for example why most organizations develop multiple suppliers rather than give their business to only one. It also explains why so many of us aspire to financial independence. Financial independence reduced the power that others can have over us.

What Creates Dependency?

Dependency is increased when the resources you control is important, scarce, and non-substitutable.

Importance: If nobody wants what you’ve got, it’s not gong to create dependency. To create dependency, therefore the thing(s) you control must be perceived as being important. Organizations, for instance actively seek to avoid uncertainly. We should therefore expect that the individuals or groups who can absorb an organization’s uncertainly will be perceived as controlling an important resources. For instance, a study of industrial organizations found that the marketing departments in these firms were consistently rated as the mot powerful. It was concluded by the researcher that the most critical uncertainty facing these firms was selling their products. This might suggest that engineers as a group would be more powerful at Matsushita than at Procter & Gamble. These inferences appear to be generally valid. An organization such as Matsushita, which is heavily technologically oriented, is highly dependent on its engineers to maintain its products’ technical advantages and quality. And, at Matsushita engineers are clearly a powerful group. At Procter & Gamble marketing is the name of the game, and marketers are the most powerful occupational group.

Scarcity: As noted previously, if something is plentiful, possession of it will not increase your power. A resource needs to be perceived as scarce to create dependency. This can help to explain how low-ranking members in an organization who have important knowledge not available to high ranking members gain power over the high ranking members. Possession of a scarce resource – in this case, important knowledge – makes the high ranking number dependent on the low ranking member. This also helps to make sense out of behaviors of low ranking members that otherwise might seem illogical such as destroying the procedures manuals that describe how a job is done, refusing to train people in their jobs or even to show others exactly what they do, rating specialized language and terminology that inhibit others from understanding their jobs, or operating in secrecy so an activity will appear more complex and difficult than it really is. Ferruccio Lamboghini, the guy who created the exotic super cars that continue to carry his name, understood the importance of scarcity and used it to his advantage during World War II. Lamborghim was in Rhodes with the Italian army. His superiors were impressed with his Mechanical skills, as he demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to repair tanks and cars that no one else could fix. After the war he admitted that his ability was largely due to having been the first person on the island to receive the repair manuals, which he memorized and then destroyed so as to become indispensable.

The scarcity-dependency relationship can further be seen in the power of occupational categories. Individuals in occupations in which the supply of personnel is low relative to demand can negotiate compensation and benefit packages that are far more attractive than those in occupation for which there is an abundance of candidates. College administrations have no problem today finding English instructors. The market for computer engineering teachers in contrast is extremely tight, with the demand high and the supply limited. The result is that the bargaining power of computer-engineering faculty allows them to negotiate higher salaries, lighter teaching loads, and other benefits.

Comments are closed.