Expert and Referent Power(OB)

Referent Power which may be held by a person or a group is based on the influencee’s desire to identify with or imitate the influencer. For example, popular conscientious managers will have referent power if employees are motivated to emulate their work habits. Referent power also functions at the peer level – charismatic colleagues may sway us to their viewpoints in department meetings.

These are potential sources of power only. They are the ways in which one person can influence another person. Possession of some or all of them does not guarantee the ability to influence particular individuals in specific ways. For example, a manager may have employees’ respect and admiration as an expert in his or her field, but still may be unable to influence them to be more creative on the job or even to get work on time. Thus, the role of the influencee in accepting or rejecting the attempted influence is a key one.

A manager has the potential to operate from all five power bases. Some of them are inherent in the position. A specific degree of legitimate power always accompanies a manager’s job. In fact, it shapes the hierarchical relationships within which the other forms of power occur. Along with legitimate power, managers usually have reward and coercive power; they can reward employees with money, privileges or promotions and punish them by with holding or removing these rewards. Unlike the first three types, expert and referent power cannot be “given” to managers along with the job title. However, managers are generally assumed to possess some degree of expertise (at least until they prove otherwise). Referent power, which depends on an individual’ style and personality is least likely to be an expected part of manager’s position. It is not unusual however. When employees try to model themselves after executives they admire referent power is at work.

Cultural aspects of Power:

The concept of power involves ho people want to view their relationships to one another. Around the globe, you can expect to find diverse experience, traditions, and practices regarding power in human relationships. In some countries, for example, the culture supports a belief that power in organizations should be unequally distributed. Italy, France, Japan, India, and Brazil are among the nations where power holders are considered superiors by other people; because superiors are thought of as different kinds of people, the belief is that those in power should look as powerful as possible. In the United States, power has long been a subject of considerable interest and even ambivalence. In understanding a particular culture’s attitude toward power, it helps to understanding the historical circumstance in which that culture has evolved. Thus, here is one place where an understanding of cultural diversity goes hand in hand with an understanding of organizations and management.

American Ambivalence about power:

The concept of power and the concept of individual liberty are difficult for Americans to reconcile, perhaps because the United States was founded in opposition to an authoritarian regime and has been populated by successive waves of immigrants fleeing oppressive governments throughout the world. A distrust of excessive power is reflected in the United States Constitution, which both establishes and limits the powers of the federal government. In addition, the Constitution’s system of checks and balances was designed to keep each of the three branches of government – legislative, executive and judicial from accumulating too much power. Furthermore, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments were enacted to protect individuals’ rights against power.

Some Americans, then have ambivalent feelings about power, both admiring and resenting it in others. They may covet power, but are reluctant to admit it openly, since both history and scientific research have shown how easy it is to misuse and abuse power, with tragic and often horrifying consequences. A related danger is that people may respond to authority blindly, not considering themselves responsible for actions they take at the behest of an authority figure.

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