How can people be influenced to make commitments to the goals of the organization? In part, this question can be answered by how managers define and use power, influence, and authority. Deciding what type of authority system to create is part of the managerial responsibility of organizing. Compare, for example, two managers. One accepts or rejects all ideas generated at lower levels. The other gives the authority for making some decisions to employees at the level where these decisions will most likely affect those employees. How managers use their power, influence, and authority can determine their effectiveness in meeting the goals of the organization.
Responsibility is the obligation to accomplish the goals related to the position and the organization. Managers, at no matter what level of the organization, typically have the same basic responsibilities when it comes to managing the work force: Direct employees toward objectives, oversee the work effort of employees, deal with immediate problems, and report on the progress of work to their superiors. Managers' primary responsibilities are to examine tasks, problems, or opportunities in relationship to the company's short-and long-range goals. They must be quick to identify areas of potential problems, continually search for solutions, and be alert to new opportunities and ways to take advantage of the best ones. How effectively goals and objectives are accomplished depends on how well the company goals are broken down into jobs and assignments and how well these are identified and communicated throughout the organization.
INFLUENCE AND POWER
Formal job definitions and coordinating strategies are not enough to get the work done. Managers must somehow use influence to encourage workers to action. If they are to succeed, managers must possess the ability to influence organization members. Influence is the ability to bring about change and produce results; people derive influence from interpersonal power and authority. Interpersonal power allows organization members to exert influence over others.
Power stems from a variety of sources: reward power, coercive power, information power, resource power, expert power, referent power, and legitimate power. Reward power exists if managers provide or withhold rewards, such as money or recognition, from those they wish to influence. Coercive power depends on the manager's ability to punish others who do not engage in the desired behavior. A few examples of coercion include reprimands, criticisms, and negative performance appraisals. Power can also result from controlling access to important information about daily operations and future plans. Also, having access to and deciding to limit or share the resources and materials that are critical to accomplishing objectives can provide a manager with a source of power. Managers usually have access to such information and resources and must use discretion over how much or how little is disseminated to employees. Expert power is based on the amount of expertise a person possesses that is valued by others. For example, some people may be considered experts with computers if they are able to use several software programs proficiently and can navigate the Internet with ease. Those who do not have the expert knowledge or experience need the expert's help and, therefore, are willing to be influenced by the expert's power. When people are admired or liked by others, referent power may result because others feel friendly toward them and are more likely to follow their directions and demonstrate loyalty toward them. People are drawn to others for a variety of reasons, including physical or social attractiveness, charisma, or prestige. Such politicians as John F. Kennedy were able to use their referent power to effectively influence others. Legitimate power stems from the belief that a person has the right to influence others by virtue of holding a position of authority, such as the authority of a manager over a subordinate or of a teacher over a student.
In some respects, everyone has powerhe power to either push forward or obstruct the goals of the organization by making decisions, delegating decisions, delaying decisions, rejecting decisions, or supporting decisions. However, the effective use of power does not mean control. Power can be detrimental to the goals of the organization if held by those who use it to enhance their own positions and thereby prevent the advancement of the goals of the organization.
Truly successful managers are able to use power ethically, efficiently, and effectively by sharing it. Power can be used to influence people to do things they might not otherwise do. When that influence encourages people to do things that have no or little relationship to the organization's goals, that power is abused. Abuses of power raise ethical questions. For example, asking a subordinate to submit supposed business-trip expenses for reimbursement for what was actually a family vacation or asking a subordinate to run personal errands is an abuse of power. People who acquire power are ethically obligated to consider the impact their actions will have on others and on the organization.
Employees may desire a greater balance of power or a redistribution of authority within the existing formal authority structure. People can share power in a variety of ways: by providing information, by sharing responsibility, by giving authority, by providing resources, by granting access, by giving reasons, and by extending emotional support. The act of sharing information is powerful. When people don't share information, the need to know still exists; therefore, the blanks are filled in with gossip and innuendo. When people are asked to take on more responsibility, they should be provided with tasks that provide a challenge, not just with more things to increase their workload that don't really matter. People need the legitimate power to make decisions without having to clear everything first with someone higher up in the organization. People who have power must also have the necessary range of resources and tools to succeed. Access to people outside as well as inside the organization should be provided and encouraged. People should be told why an assignment is important and why they were chosen to do it. Emotional support can come in the form of mentoring, appreciation, listening, and possibly helping out.
Sharing power or redistributing authority does not necessarily mean moving people into positions of power; instead, it can mean letting people have power over the work they do, which means that people can exercise personal power without moving into a formal leadership role. The ability to influence organization members is an important resource for effective managers. Relying on the title "boss" is seldom powerful enough to achieve adequate influence.
Authority is seen as the legitimate right of a person to exercise influence or the legitimate right to make decisions, to carry out actions, and to direct others. For example, managers expect to have the authority to assign work, hire employees, or order merchandise and supplies.
As part of their structure, organizations have a formal authority system that depicts the authority relationships between people and their work. Different types of authority are found in this structure: line, staff, and functional authority. Line authority is represented by the chain of command; an individual positioned above another in the hierarchy has the right to make decisions, issue directives, and expect compliance from lower-level employees. Staff authority is advisory authority; it takes the form of counsel, advice, and recommendation. People with staff authority derive their power from their expert knowledge and the legitimacy established in their relationships with line managers. Functional authority allows managers to direct specific processes, practices, or policies affecting people in other departments; functional authority cuts across the hierarchical structure. For example, the human resources department may create policies and procedures related to promoting and hiring employees throughout the entire organization.
Authority can also be viewed as arising from interpersonal relationships rather than a formal hierarchy. Authority is sometimes equated with legitimate power. Authority and power and how these elements are interrelated can explain the elements of managing and their effectiveness. What is critical is how subordinates perceive a manager's legitimacy. Legitimate authority occurs when people use power for good and have acquired power by proper and honest means. When people perceive an attempt at influence as legitimate, they recognize it and willingly comply. Power acquired through improper means, such as lying, withholding information, gossip, or manipulation, is seen as illegitimate. When people perceive the authority of others as illegitimate, they are less likely to willingly comply.
In order for managers to achieve goals in an efficient manner, part of their work may be assigned to others. When work is delegated, tasks and authority are transferred from one position to another within an organization. The key to effective delegation of tasks is the transference of decision-making authority and responsibility from one level of the organization to the level to which the tasks have been delegated. In order to effectively delegate work, some guidelines should be followed: Determine what each worker can most effectively accomplish; decide whether the worker should just identify a problem or also propose a solution; consider whether the person can handle the challenge of the task; be clear in the objectives of the task; encourage questions; explain why the task is important; determine if the person has the appropriate resourcesime, budget, data, or equipmento get the job done on a deadline; create progress reviews as part of the project planning; and be prepared to live with less than perfect results. Authority should be delegated in terms of expected results. Generally, the more specific the goal, the easier it is to determine how much authority someone needs.
Some employees resist delegation for a variety of reasons. Initiative and responsibility involve risk that some people try to avoid. People tend to play it safe if risk results in criticism. Those who feel they already have more work than they can do avoid new assignments. Some people doubt their own abilities and lack the self-confidence to tackle new assignments. Delegation is an excellent professional development tool so long as it expands a worker's expertise and growth. Delegation can also compensate for a manager's weakness. A successful team is developed by building on the strengths of its members.
People develop most when stimulated to broaden themselveshen challenged. More authority can add challenge; too much challenge, however, can frustrate people and cause them to avoid new responsibilities. Delegation should involve acceptable challengenough to motivate but not so much as to frustrate.
In today's workplace, managers are compelled to rely more on persuasion, which is based on expert and referent power rather than reward, coercive, or inappropriate use of power. A manager who shares power and authority will be the one with the greatest ability to influence others to work toward the goals of the organization.
Bartol, Kathryn M., and Martin, David C. (1994). Management. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hirschhorn, Larry. (1997). Reworking Authority. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lucas, James R. (1998). Balance of Power. New York: American Management Association.
Marshall, Don R. (1999). The Four Elements of Successful Management. New York: American Management Association.
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