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Power and Influence in Organizations Research Paper

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2022


Power distance is an important concept that was introduced by Geert Hofstede to help in measuring the distribution of power in societies. Individuals in different societies relate differently to the power distribution aspect. This equally influences the manner in which businesses and organizations in these countries are run.

Hofstede notes that different people have different degrees at which they might be willing to tolerate ambiguity. He, therefore, classifies societies basing on their uncertainty avoidance characteristics. This paper investigates the whole concept of power distance. The paper then zeroes on power in organizations and power in businesses.

The Dependence Theory of Power

An individual achieves power as a result of another person’s susceptibility to the power. A stronger aspect of dependence highlights vulnerability.

However, the dependence is not in compassion (de Lange 8). In this regard, power is looked at in terms of the ability to manipulate or sway others. Dependency refers to the economic development state, in terms of politics, economy, and culture, which influences national development policies. Powerful countries largely influence a lot of less developed countries that rely on them for their survival.

Power Bases

Organizations and businesses are able to operate according to their strategies because of the inherent bases of power. In particular, individuals in organizations can obtain five different types of power, which include coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, expert power, and referent power.

Coercive Power

Individuals with coercive power in organizations have the ability to order other employees to conform to the projected targets. Coercive power is often executed through the issuance of punishment. Managers use the coercive power granted to them by virtue of their position to have their subordinates comply with the orders. However, the use of coercive force affects employees negatively because it causes lack of commitment on their part.

Organizations can curb the use of coercive power by changing their employment rules to allow employment-at-will. Quality management theory equally plays a critical role in influencing organizations against using coercive force. According to the proponents of the quality management theory, organizations that practice coercive force experience a decline in their creativity and productivity. An insecure environment filled with fear is also created when managers use coercive force when dealing with their employees.

Legitimate Power

This type of power is achieved when employees believe and agree that their managers, by virtue of their leadership position, have the right to issue orders.

Managers acquire this legitimate power because of the position they hold in the organization’s hierarchy (de Lange 8). The legitimate power often makes employees fail to cooperate out of willingness, but because they are required to do so. They, therefore, lack some level of commitment. Therefore, managers have to use other means apart from their legitimate power to win the full support of their employees.

Reward Power

Reward power is acquired by virtue of a manager’s ability to reward his employees. Rewards to employees may be in varying forms, including monetary or non-monetary forms. Using reward power influences positive performance of organizations. Managers who use their reward power in a flexible way end up motivating their employees to perform excellently. On the other hand, managers using rigid rewards power may end up demoralizing the workers, resulting in poor business returns for the firm.

Referent Power

Managers acquire referent power when their employees develop a strong respect for them and strive to identify with them. Managers with referent power lead by example because it influences employees into modeling their own behavior. Referent power empowers employees in the organization because they are more willing to take instructions and orders from such managers (de Lange 10).

Referent power takes longer to develop, implying that an organization may not benefit from its advantages where a high turnover rate is experienced. Referent power may also fail to benefit an organization comprising of employees with mixed cultural backgrounds. Individual employees may end up misunderstanding and misinterpreting their superiors, thus creating a barrier.

Expert Power

Expert power is acquired when employees hold the belief that a manager or a colleague worker has greater job knowledge and performance skills. Individuals may be promoted to managerial positions by virtue of their great knowledge and expertise. Unlike other types of power, individuals holding expert power may not necessarily rank higher than their colleagues.

While expert employees may still receive orders and instructions from other managers, they issue orders and instructions to be followed by the other managers when operating in their areas of expertise.

Contingencies of Power

The actual power wielded by managers in organizations is as a result of four main eventuality areas, which include substitutability, centrality, discretion, as well as visibility.


Available alternatives in an organization influence the extent to which power sources can be converted successfully. The presence of alternatives, in turn, lowers the original source value. Like in the principle of supply and demand, the availability of many alternatives reduces power, while a limited number of choices increase the power (McShane and Von Glinow 19).


Organizations have structures in place to determine who among the individuals or employees holds power. However, organizations are likely to encounter challenges in the way they run if they lack a power-holder. Centrality, therefore, refers to the consequences of the organization lacking a power-holder. A greater consequence implies more leverage on the part of the power-holder.


Discretion relates to the extent to which the power-holders in an organization make unregulated or non-standardized decisions. A power-holder is of less benefit to the organization if the same decisions he is expected to make can still be achieved using policies.


Significantindividuals in an organization may discover about the resources that the power-holder in the firm possesses. This is referred to as visibility. Lack of awareness of the power-holder’s possession renders the resources invaluable to the organization, resulting in loss of power (McShane and Von Glinow 19).

Power and Social Networks

Organizations include social networks and units where employees find the opportunity to relate with each other in various interdependencies. Power is acquired within the social networks mainly by means of social capital. However, there has to be goodwill for social capital to be attained, as well as resulting resources that have to be shared among the social network members.

Workers belonging to the same departments or units within the organization benefit from information that they would not have acquired had the units been non-existent. The interaction also results in visibility where unique individual talents and skills are likely to be discovered. Social networks also offer a good platform for the growth and acquisition of referent power. Employees are influenced by each other as they relate closely and emulate their colleagues who perform well in their roles.

Maintaining ties between different social networks in the organization increases the benefits amassed by the organization. Workers belonging to one unit gain additional information when they relate with their colleagues in a different unit.

Influence Tactics, Consequences of Influencing others, and contingencies

Power influence tactics refer to the actual exercise of power (McShane and Von Glinow 20). These tactics include assertiveness, which involves giving orders, setting deadlines, nagging, as well as using verbal confrontation.

Managers may also use integration to exercise power. Here, they may use flattery words, friendliness, humility, and politeness when practicing their roles. Rationality may also be used to exercise power. Here, the manager uses logic, planning, reasoning, and compromise in executing his roles.

The exchange tactic, on the other hand, involves mainly doing favors, such as trade favors, to exercise power. The upward appeal tactic, on the other hand, relies on formal and informal appeals towards the organizational superiors to seek their intervention. Power can also be exercised through forming coalitions where individuals may do this for purposes of acquiring support from their colleagues in the organization.

Influencing others in the organization results in achieving certain results, including eliminating inefficiency and conflicts among the workers. The manager is likely to understand the negative influence tactics. Influencing others also increases one’s interpersonal effectiveness through continued interaction (de Lange 12).


Power plays a critical role in influencing organizational performance and results. Understanding power and utilizing it in the most appropriate way influences positive outcomes for the organization. On the other hand, failure to understand and practice power effectively puts the organization at risk of failing to achieve its desired objectives.

Individuals holding power in organizations may have attained such power on the basis of several factors. These bases include the virtue of their skills, the respect accorded to them by their colleagues, or the advantage of holding a specific position within the organizational framework. Managers and other employees in the organization may exercise their powers when performing their roles using various tactics. These tactics involve integration, rationality, and assertiveness.

Works Cited

De Lange, Deborah. Power and Influence: The Embeddedness of Nations. New York, NY: Palgrave McMillan, 2010. Print.

McShane, Steven and Von Glinow Mary. Organizational Behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin, 2012. Print.

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