In any organization, a person can see the five bases of power at work, some powers more than others depending on the individual in charge and the circumstances. The power used by such individuals can affect communication within the organization, whether positive or negative. There are five bases of power, being coercive, reward, legitimate, expert and personal. Coercive power, reward power and legitimate power are all formal powers. A person’s position in a company can give him influence over others below him, thereby affording him formal power. Coercive power is dependent on fear.
A person reacts to this power out of fear of the negative results that might occur if he/she failed to comply. If a person has the ability to dismiss, suspend, or demote another person, this gives them coercive power over them. This power also comes from withholding key information which makes others dependent on them if they need this information at any time (Lesikar, Flatley & Rentz, 2008). Reward power is based on positive benefits given to workers if they comply with another’s directives. Although formal, it is the opposite of coercive power.
Rewards distributed because of a job well done can either be financial or nonfinancial. Financial rewards come in the form of raises or bonuses and nonfinancial rewards can come in the form of recognition, promotions and preferred work shifts or assignments. Legitimate power represents the formal authority to control and use of organizational resources. This power includes acceptance by members in an organization of the authority of a position. When these ones speak on a matter, others who also work alongside or under them usually comply.
Personal power comes from an individual’s unique characteristics. You don’t have to have a formal position in an organization to have this power. Two bases of personal power are expert power and referent power. Expert power is based on expertise, special skill or knowledge. As jobs become more specialized, we become more independent on experts to achieve goals on the job. And because we rely on these ones for needed help, it gives them power over us. Referent power is based on desirable resources or personal traits.
If one person is admired and respected by another person, they have power over them in the sense that the other person will do what it takes to please them (Lesikar, Flatley & Rentz). According to Lesikar, Flatley and Rentz (2008), research suggests that the personal powers are more effective because they are positively related to employees’ satisfaction with supervision, organizational commitment and their performance. The Fort Valley State University Department of Campus Police and Safety uses the five bases of power in different ways.
The chain of command in this department starts with the Police Chief, the Campus Police Fire Safety Officer, the Campus Detective and down to four different shift supervisors. The Police Chief mostly uses coercive power in that he has the power to suspend or terminate an individual if they do not comply with the duties of the department. An incident happened not too long ago on campus involving a break in theft of numerous IMAC computers from the Fine Arts Department. The financial loss was great, including the loss of many of the students’ projects that were saved on the computers’ hard drives.
Needless to say, disciplinary action was taken to first suspend the officer that was supposed to be on patrol of the building and later terminated after much investigation and prodding from the school President, who was pretty upset about the whole ordeal. The Police Chief also has reward power in that he has the power to promote or give raises in the department. The Fire Safety officer in the department is a Sergeant, has been with the University 13 years, longer than anyone else and is an expert in his field of work.
Because of this, he exercises more of the personal power, such as expert and referent power. When it comes to any information or equipment for the Department, he is the “go to” guy. He has also served in a supervisory capacity before and is second in command to eh Police Chief, as well as the event coordinator for the Department. When he speaks on a matter, everyone for the most part listens and complies with his directives. Because of his personality, many of the employees consider him approachable and communicate well with him.
An example of legitimate power is exercised with the shift supervisors who consist of Sergeants and Corporals. These ones have been given authority from the Police Chief to discipline individuals under them on each shift or to handle petty matters. He backs these ones up on whatever decisions are made on their shift provided it does not interfere with the policies of the University Police Department. If problems do arise in the department, there is an open door policy where the employees are welcome to discuss with the Chief or their immediate supervisor so that it can be resolved as soon as possible.
In conclusion, the base of power that is used by either a person in authority or because of a person’s experience or personality can have an effect on a department or organization as a whole. It can determine whether employees will communicate well with each other, as well as with their superiors. And it also determines whether a job will be done well because of incentives or because of wanting to please or be like a superior. Using his or her powers in a responsible way can most definitely be a success in an organization.