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“Power Play” by Jeffrey Pfeffer Essay

The article by Jeffrey Pfeffer is about the use of power through influencing others to get things done in one’s dimension. In the essay the writer tries to explain what power play is and how it comes about. The major set up is concentrated in an organization citing various examples.

According to Pfeffer (85), the world is not a just place and therefore, all people cannot be the same or of the same magnitude. One definitely has to be on a higher level than the other.

This is why there is existence of hierarchical leadership, where at least some parties have to report to one party who is on a higher level of authority than them.

In the essay, Pfeffer (86) states that even though power is what everyone would like to have, many individuals tend to shy away from it, due to the fear of failure.

He continues to state that it is due to this fear that individuals have limited their capabilities in relation to what they think they can do and thus incapacitate their magnitude of attaining power.

This therefore leads the author to explore the other several barriers to power play that could hinder one in achieving power, and narrows down to two major elements namely: low self esteem backed up by the notion that the world is a just and controllable place.

In order to attain power, one has to be skillful and wise at the workplace and always strive to be a step ahead of the rest (Pfeffer 87). This way, your moves are unpredictable and therefore, the element of surprise in them catches the opponents off guard.

It is also noted that in order to attain powerplay, one should be highly guarded and not react to just any confrontation/wars. Overall speaking, power is good both on an individual level and at an organizational level.Hvaing power can help you live a healthier longer life.


In an organization, not everyone will agree on what is to be done or what needs to be done, yet strategies hardly implement themselves. It is evident that we all make decisions based on the information we have and the objectives we are pursuing and these things vary from position to position.

The article by Pfeffer seeks to highlight some of the most important principles involved/rotating around the issue of power play. Understanding one’s resources helps to effectively wield power.

One can use whatever they have to mete power besides money. Other resources could as well be a valuable network, like access to information.

Barriers to Power

Most people want to think that the world is potentially predictable and controllable, therefore thinking that they will be automatically be rewarded for a job well done.

When people witness a negative behavior, they tend to think that those engaging in it will automatically be brought to book, thinking that they have nothing to learn from it.

This kind of belief in a world that is fair makes people less powerful in the sense that their willingness to learn from situations and general happenings or occurrences is limited, especially from people they generally dislike (Altman 80).

Secondly, it makes them comfortable to the extent that they hardly see any need to form a powerbase, a situation that could led to destruction in their lives and even in their careers.

Low Self-Esteem

Many are times when people hinder their own potentials by limiting themselves in many ways. This could occur by one invariably thinking that they are unable to do one thing or the other and therefore, fear to exploit their potentials, therefore choosing to not take the risks.

They tend to cushion themselves in a comfortable cocoon that gradually leads them to a self handicapping situation. There past experiences of failure tends to put them at risk. In this case, they ultimately fail to take on new challenges and due to this, are not able to explore their new abilities or skills (Pfeifer 89).

General Overview of How to Attain Power

Be the first to make the move. Usually, when you are the one who makes the first move, opponents are caught off guard and taken by surprise. This is so far the best way to attain power since before they can be able to tell what is happening, victory has been secured (Jeffrey 86).

This type of dynamics plays out mostly between board of directors and Ceo’s of companies in their quest for power. Either party also seem to counter attack in order to unseat one of them from their respective postion.The one who moves fast and skillfully is usually the winner.

The second rule in obtaining power is to eliminate rivals in a neat and nice way, if possible. This is a sly way but very workable. Incase you want to eliminate a rival from the same field, so as not to get competition; it could be simpler and easier if you secured them another place to work from (Kals and Maes 88)

These qualities may sound “soft” and unbusinesslike, although there are direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results (Goleman 4). This is by getting them a more attractive job somewhere else.

Not only will you have totally eliminated them and their competition, but also the opponent will be thoroughly grateful to you (Isaacson 3). This kind of elimination need not be the first thing to think about though it should be on your list of highly prioritized agendas.

Since opponents generally have nothing to loose, you should make it easier for them to depart by helping save their face.

Also, make a clear cut on the cost versus benefits analysis. You should be able to determine the extent and benefit of waging a war and the result of victory. One should be careful not to create unnecessary opposition in their quest for power.

You should strive not to push too hard against your bosses or peers in order to reduce the constant emotional strain exerted by meetings and constant antagonism. A clear set vision is therefore a necessary tool.


This discussion has clearly revealed that many people generally exercise less of the authority they seem to have. It has also clearly depicted that power is not diplomatic and should be enforced in more stringent measures and adhered to decisively.

In order to exert influence therefore, it is necessary that the individual in quest of power make it clear and stand out in self confidence. It is also essential to note that skill is desirable and highly required, not only in elimination of opponents and rivals especially when seeking elative positions.

It has been clearly depicted in the above essay that in order to wield power, one must be willing to exercise the above power rules.

In order to excel, you should not expect to do so with the desirable qualities but rather, through the cost benefit analysis of what are the relevance of waging a victorious war and whether it is actually necessary.

According to my own perspective, I think the above essay is relevant in the sense that it is thoroughly applicable to organizational leaders especially for purposes of leadership training. It also gives an insight on how to attain power in a very rational perspective, through the ploys and tactics mentioned therein.

Works Cited

Altman, Morris. Handbook of contemporary behavioral economics: foundations and developments. Armonk, New York: M.E Sharpe, 2006. Print.

Goleman, Daniel, 1995. Emotional intelligence. PDF file. Web.

Isaacson, Walter 2012, The real leadership lessons of Steve Jobs. PDF file. Web.

Kals, Elisabeth and Maes, Jurgen. Justice and conflicts: theoretical and empirical contributions. London: Springer, 2011. Print.

Pfeffer, Jeffrey, 2010. Power Play. PDF file. Web.

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