In an organization, power is the ability to influence the actions and attitudes of others. Individual power within an organization is divided into two broad categories: formal and informal power. The marketing assistant position at Company X draws individual power from each of these categories. Understanding that power, allows that individual the opportunity to resolve conflict appropriately rather than resort to tactics that will eventually be self-destructive.
Formal power is a benefit of the position an individual holds within an organization. The marketing assistant wields four kinds of formal power: legitimate, reward, coercive, and information. Legitimate power is a direct reflection of the individual’s position on the organizational chart. The marketing assistant is in charge of clerical assistant. Therefore, the marketing assistant has legitimate power over the clerical assistant. Reward power is the ability to give both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Although the marketing assistant has limited ability to grant extrinsic rewards, he can provide intrinsic rewards to the clerical assistant and members of the project staff team. Coercive power is the ability to punish. Just like the marketing assistant can provide intrinsic rewards, he can also choose to withhold them. Finally, information power is the ability to gain and control information within the organization. The marketing assistant has access to information from the Director of Marketing and may choose to disseminate that information in whatever fashion he feels appropriate (George & Jones, 2008).
Informal is more difficult to measure. It’s the power that lies outside the organizational chart and really reflects how the individual is perceived by members of the organization. This area that any individual can most influence. Although individuals often get stuck in a position within the organization, the ability to wield informal power often makes them irreplaceable (George & Jones, 2008). Someone new to the company would do well to cultivate this power and strive to become an expert in many fields. As Jennifer George and Gareth Jones (2008) sum it up, expert power is the perception of “superior ability or expertise” (p. 432). The other informal powers rely heavily on the personality traits of the individuals. Although an individual may be able to influence this power in the short term, it is not likely that an uncharismatic individual can maintain the charade for long.
The project team at Company X is made up of individuals that are all from similar levels of the organization. Therefore, someone in the marketing assistant’s position can not hope to wield legitimate power over anyone in the group. The best strategy to take with this group is to cultivate one’s expert power. By demonstrating that superior ability to the group, the marketing assistant will gain the respect of the other project team members and their associates. Another tactic would be to control the flow of information from the Director of Marketing to the group. The benefit of this power is the ability to deliver information at a time that is beneficial to everyone. In other words, withholding information that might lead to conflict, or leaking information early if it aids in resolution.
George, J. M., & Jones G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.