Power and Individual Behavior

Cite this article as:"Power and Individual Behavior," in The Business Professor, updated July 16, 2020, last accessed August 8, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/power-and-individual-behavior/.

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What Is Power?

Power is the ability to exert control or influence the situation or behavior of others.

What are the Types of Power?

  • Legitimate Power (Positional Power) – Legitimate power is a result of the position held in an organization. Generally, this sort of power must relate to the belief that the individual legitimately earned the power.
  • Expert Power (Knowledge Power) – Expert power is the result of possessing knowledge or expertise in a particular area making them indispensable to a task, purpose, or function.
  • Referent Power – Referent power results from the respect, trust, and confidence that others have for or in you. Developing referent power generally requires have a strong interpersonal relationship.
  • Coercive Power – Coercive power concerns the ability to take negative action against another, such as reprimand, physical harm, or financial harm.
  • Reward Power – Reward power regards the ability to distribute resources as an incentive or reward for desired behavior.

What are Power and Conformity?

Conformity or to conform means to comply with. The guidelines for conformity are generally group actions, social norms, rules, demands from others, etc.

The effective exercise of power depends upon the ability to influence individuals into conformity with the desired behavior. Conformity with the exercise of power can lead to abuses of authority.

What are The Milgram Studies?

Psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment in which individuals were ordered to hurt other individuals (via electric shock). Subjects were asked questions and given a shock when they were wrong. The test subjects delivered the shocks were very willing to cause harm to others. This willingness increased when assured that there would be no personal consequences for their actions. This result became more clear as the harm being inflicted became more severe (more volts).

What are The Asch Studies?

Researcher Solomon Asch conducted an experiment that individuals were willing to go against their physical senses when determining the physical characteristics of objects if members of a group acted a given way. That is, some individuals could be influenced to say that two lines were the same length when one was clearly longer than the other. This willingness was the result of other control members of the group who made the erroneous assertion. The tendency to make the erroneous assertion went down when other control group members did not agree. This demonstrated that a small dissenting minority of individuals can have a powerful effect on group conformity.

What is the Zimbardo Study?

Research Philip Zimbardo conducted an experiment in which individuals acted as prison guards and were put in charge of other test subjects as prisoners. The results demonstrated that the prisoners began to feel depressed, helpless, and more readily conformed to orders from the guards. The guards collectively became more aggressive and abusive in giving and enforcing orders.

What is the Strategic Contingency Model?

Dependency refers to the extent to which an individual relies upon an external factor to maintain their preferred or needed state. An individual may be dependent upon the care of others, the physical effects of drugs, the source of livelihood (food or money) delivered by a person or institution. The greater an individual’s dependency upon an external factor, the greater the power of the factor over the individual.

The strategic contingencies model states that dependency is power derived from the ability to handle actual or potential organizational problems. The extent of the dependency is defined by:

  • Scarcity – Scarcity refers to the availability of a finite resource.
  • Importance – Importance is the value that someone ascribes to a resource.
  • Substitutability – Substitutability refers to the extent to which you are able to replace the finite resource with something else that meets those needs.

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