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Summary of “Power Dynamics in Organizations

What is Power? Power define as the potential of an individual (or group) to influence another individual or group. Is it effective for the individual? Is it effective for the organization? Is it ethical? These are three questions as interrelated criteria that we should apply in evaluating an individual's exercise of power and influence. In answering those questions, both the short- and long-term consequences of an individual's actions should be assessed. Organizations as Political Entities Political conflict over scarce or key organizational resources is inevitable, given the challenges of managing in contemporary organizations. In Realities of Managerial Life there are “The Challenge” and “The Solution”. Interdependency, diversity, and power gap are included into “The Challenge” and “The Solution” consists of Law of Reciprocity and Networks. Organizations consist of interdependent individuals (and groups) with divergent interests who must figure out how to reconcile these interests. The more interdependence, diversity, and resource scarcity in an organization, the more political conflict. There are prevention factors that help to reduce the amount of conflict such as the consistency of organization successfully negotiating win-win resolutions. There are precipitating factors that exacerbate the conflict in an organization though. When superordinate goals and values do not exist it can be political conflict in organizations. Shared goals and values can be lacking for a variety of reasons, for instance, when no shared culture exists or strong leaders fail to define a vision behind which people are aligned and motivated. To eliminate political conflict, managers would have to eliminate diversity, including the division of labor and specialization. Diversity and conflict are essential ingredients for creativity and innovation. Power and influence are the mechanisms by which the inevitable political conflicts in organizations get resolved. The distribution of power and influence in organizations is generally aligned with the realities they face and can become institutionalized and thereby endure well beyond its usefulness. Where Does Power Come From? A person's power is determined by two sets of factors: positional and personal characteristics. The sources of positional power are formal authority, relevance, centrality, autonomy and visibility. And expertise, track record, attractiveness and effort are the sources of personal power.

Assessing Power Dynamics In assessing the power dynamics in a given situation, you need to:

1. Identify the interdependencies among the relevant parties. Who is dependent on whom and for

what? Whose cooperation is needed? Whose compliance?

2. Determine the sources of power of the relevant parties.

3. After the interdependent parties have been identified, analyze the relevant differences among

them. What are the underlying factors that have created or are reinforcing those differences? How might these differences lead to other assumptions or perceptions about the current situation? Around what issues can you expect conflict?

4. Analyze the broader context. How much potential for political conflict exists? Where are the major

alliances? The major rivalries? Are there any precipitating factors? Are there any prevention factors?

How are key players likely to respond to conflict? Will their response most likely lead to constructive or destructive consequences?

5. Periodically update your diagnosis. Power dynamics are just that dynamic.