management power

As a Manager, You Have Power. How You Use That Power is What Counts.

Laura T

“With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”- (Most commonly quoted in Spider-Man).

As a manager, you naturally possess “power” by the job description and title. For your employees to respect, trust, and feel motivated by you, it’s essential to use that power in the right way by not abusing it. 

Rooted in psychology are two different kinds of power – normative and influential power. The idea of five different types of power that fall into either the “Normative” category or “Influential” category came from psychologists Bertram Raven and John French. While these powers are typically discussed surrounding the idea of conformity, we can quickly see how they can be applied to management styles. 

Normative Powers 

Normative powers are more likely to produce public conformity as opposed to private acceptance, meaning that harnessing these powers may change someone’s behavior (such as causing them to “agree with you”), but not their actual attitude toward the person or situation. 

One of these powers is having reward power, which means giving positive or negative rewards. In the workplace, this is having the ability to give someone a raise or allowing them to take the lead on a project.

Coercive power is having the ability to give out punishments—this may mean having the capacity to decrease someone’s input on a project or even push to have them fired. 

Coercive and reward power go hand in hand—a manager can offer someone a leadership position, but with a warning such as—”If you mess up, that’s it—I’ll never give you another one.”

If you ever have experienced a negative scenario in which a power-hungry manager gave out rewards like rations but punishments like candy, you may have had an authoritarian leader.

Authoritarian leadership (also known as Autocratic leadership), “is a leadership style characterized by individual control over all decisions and little input from group members. Autocratic leaders typically make choices based on their ideas and judgments and rarely accept advice from followers. Autocratic leadership involves absolute, authoritarian control over a group.” In a scenario like this, it’s clear who has the power, and typically, they aren’t well-liked for it.

That’s not to say that reward and coercive power shouldn’t be used (especially reward)—they just shouldn’t be abused. As a manager, everyone on your team already knows that you are often the one that calls the shots on who gets promoted, completes performance evaluations, etc. You should, of course, always reward your employees for doing good work and let them know when they aren’t meeting standards, but there’s no reason to do it cruelly—don’t dangle rewards and compliments over their heads. 

Informational Power 

Informational powers are meant to create private acceptance—meaning that not only will outward behavior change, but attitude will too. 

One informational power is legitimate power. Legitimate power is the authority that comes from believing that someone has the right to have power and influence others. As a manager, assuming you were fairly evaluated and promoted or hired to be in your position, people are more likely to respect you as their manager—as I said earlier, it comes with the job title and description. Like any other type of power, don’t let it go to your head. Just because you legitimately are someone’s manager doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat them with empathy and compassion, just as you would want from a leader. 

Another informational power is referent power. Referent power is based on respecting or identifying with someone in power. One way to harness your referent power is to lead by example—be a trustworthy boss. Show compassion and empathy to your employees. Get to know them—chances are, you probably have some similarities, maybe it’s a sports team you like or a favorite TV show. Your employees are more likely to respect and listen to you if they see you as human, not as “my boss.”

The last informational power is expert power. Expert power is based on other’s belief that the person in power has knowledge, skills, or ability that they don’t have. While you likely have expert power being a manager, one way to improve is by continually learning. Just as you want your employees to continue learning and improving upon their skills, one way to gain others’ respect is to do the same. No doubt; it will enhance your employee’s confidence in you if you’ve taken the time to work on your skills or lend a hand, too—and if everyone’s confident, that’s one great team. 

There’s no doubt that as a manager, you have a lot of say, and simply put, a lot of power. However, to have a team that works well together, respects each other, and respects you as a manager, you’ll want to use the proper powers in the right ways. If not, you could end up with a disengaged and unhappy team. 

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