Sunday, August 21, 2011

Management Theories # 21 - 5 bases of social power

Processes of power are pervasive, complex, and often disguised in our society.

The Bases of Social Power of French and Raven is a theory that identifies five (six) bases or sources of social (organizational) power:

  • Reward Power (based on the perceived ability to give positive consequences or remove negative ones)
  • Coercive Power (the perceived ability to punish those who not conform with your ideas or demands)
  • Legitimate Power (organizational authority) (based on the perception that someone has the right to prescribe behavior due to election or appointment to a position of responsibility)
  • Referent Power (through association with others who possess power)
  • Expert Power (based on having distinctive knowledge, expertness, ability or skills)
  • Similar to 5: Information Power (based on controlling the information needed by others in order to reach an important goal)

The Five Bases of Social Power theory starts from the premise that power and influence involve relations between at least two agents, and theorizes that the reaction of the recipient agent is the more useful focus for explaining the phenomena of social influence and power.

French and Raven examined the effect of power derived from the various bases of attraction (the recipient's sentiment towards the agent who uses power) and resistance to the use of power.

They conclude that the use of power from the various bases has different consequences.

For example, coercive power typically decreases attraction and causes high resistance, whereas reward power increases attraction and creates minimal levels of resistance.

French and Raven also concluded that "the more legitimate the coercion [is perceived to be], the less it ill produce resistance and decreased attention".

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