Organizational bases of power: what’s up and what’s down with the Internet ?

"Power" in distribution channels is a fascinating topic and so is the notion of organizational power on which Jeffery Pfeffer had a book out that this blog discussed in an earlier post. But this post is about the six bases of power (see the lower part of the Wikipedia page)  that seem to be changing with the Internet. These are:

  1. Positional or legitimate power  is the title (President CEO etc.) that  makes the person sort of worth listening to. This is highly influenced by the culture of the country as in some countries there is a large power distance – so the boss is always right. Social media seems to be  eroding some of this with instant assessments of legitimate power by underlings. Down.
  2. Referent power is the power of a reference point like celebrities in advertising. Social media including YouTube helps to magnify the referent power of the brand and organization in both B2B and B2C contexts.  Up.
  3. Expert power is really going up with the Internet and social media. It was earlier that you had to ask around ( the snow ball technique) to search out knowledgeable folks. Now it take seconds to search the Internet including Google Scholar to identify the top thinkers in any field. Up.
  4. Reward power and the Internet seems to be ambiguous at the moment particularly with the final revealation by researchers that beyond $75,000 money does not make one happy. Since friends make you happy and the Internet helps a great deal organizations are stuck on this one as well. Down.
  5. Coercive power never really worked because it  builds resentment. With climate surveys becoming easier via the Internet and employees taking to Facebook, coercive power is avoidable. Down.
  6. Informational power was discussed in an earlier post. Down.

Four of the traditional six bases of organizational and inter-organization bases of power seem to be under siege by the Internet. Time for leaders and managers need to re-think old approaches to energize their teams within and between organizations. Contact StratoServe.

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