Managerial power plays a crucial role for every organization and business determining goals and objectives, performing planning and controlling functions, etc. In recent years, writers (Frey, Kucher, 1999; Reed 2001; Robbins, 2002; Armstrong, 2001) on management and leadership have recognized that managerial power have different sources and can be gained in various ways according to organizational objectives and goals.
These variables will surely increase as companies grow more complex and it will then become more difficult to trace the side-effects of a change in dealing with a specific area of management responsibility. Some managers try to solve them by considering changes in the structure of organizations and the locations of authority and responsibility. Others hope to do it by improving the quality of decisions by new technological ideas and the use of modern methods of data processing. Yet another group expects to solve the same problems by concentrating on human relations.
The aim of the paper is to discuss and critically evaluate the ways a manager might gain managerial power in an organization and importance of this role .
Importance of Managerial Power
The role, power and responsibility of managers varies from organisation to organisation, all managers regardless of status contribute to the maintenance of the organisation’s culture. In one sense the position of manager is a formal recognition of success and as such managerial power plays a key role in personifying the culture (Handy, 1993). It has been suggested that managers and their culture are inseparable from each other and managers consistently influence and affect the perceptions and attitudes of their subordinates. Following Pulli, “authority and power do not come for free. There is always accountability and some extra administrative work included” (Pulli, 2001).
In general, “power is simply the individual capacity to gain your own aims in interrelationship with others, even in the face of their opposition” (Fairholm, 1993, p.7). To gain managerial power, managers might take into account the following aspects. The first is identification of a task and the quality of its fulfillment. The group exists to achieve a common purpose or task, and the manager’s actions in one area affect both the others; thus successful achievement of the task is essential if the group is to be held together and its members motivated to give their best effort to the job (Boeker, 1992).
So, the four key elements of performance should be taken into account. These are: measurement – assessing results against agreed targets and standards; feedback – giving people information on how they are doing; positive reinforcement – emphasizing what has been done well so that it will be done even better in the future; only making constructive criticisms, i.e. those that point the way to improvement; exchange of views – ensuring that the discussion involves a full, free and frank exchange of views about what has been achieved, what needs to be done to achieve more and what individuals think about their work, the way they are guided and managed and their aspirations (Reed, 2001).
Role of a Manager Within Organisation
The function of a manager is to achieve the task set for them with the help of the group. Managerial power and groups are therefore interdependent. Managers have two main roles. First, they must achieve the task. Secondly they have to maintain effective relationships between themselves and the group and the individuals in it – effective in the sense that they are conducive to achieving the task. “Manager is more interested in gaining power. Higher the power, greater is the influencing ability” (Srivastava, 2006).
A manager’s functions involve effective planning and control of the operations as well as appropriate organizing and leading functions that have a direct impact on successful performance. Strong managerial power is important, because it helps managers to plan and control activities according to organizational needs and objectives utilizing resources and manpower effectively and efficiently (Handy, 1993).
How to Gain Managerial Power
Researchers single out different ways for managers to gain managerial power. Some of them take into account organisational needs and personality of managers while the others see control and knowledge as the main sources of managerial power. On the other hand, all of them underline that the kind of power exercised is related to the nature of the task and the people being led. It also depends on the environment and, of course, on the actual manager. Analysing the qualities of managers in terms of intelligence, initiative, self-assurance and so on has only limited value. The qualities required are different in different situations.
Control and Manipulation of Organisational Resources
The control and manipulation of organisational resources might help managers to gain managerial power. For example, acquiring additional resources or being identified with important resource areas or areas of expertise, and the ability to withdraw or allocate such resources, can be a valuable tool in overcoming resistance or persuading others to accept change. And the careful use of information or news to counter the information being used to justify opposition to change can also be important (Handy, 1993).
Resource scarceness and dependence increase importance of managerial power (Morgan, 1997). Control activities are directed toward projects and other programs initiated by the planning process. Data measures and evaluations generated by the control process are also a major input to the planning process. Control means checking to see that planning have been carried out effectively.
There are many times when predictability of actions that must be taken are essential to an organization, but too much conformity may result in a loss of initiative in non-standard situations. However, it should be possible for formal organization to have a reasonable amount of flexibility if there is good organizational practice. For example, there should be room for individual discretion and creativity and the organizational structure should be such as to produce an environment whereby individual performance most effectively contributes towards group goals (Robbins, 2002).
Managerial power depends on the type of project. When planning a construction project the group may simply consider the type of resources necessary for each activity, equipment or skill groups – for example, electricians or carpenters. However, if planning a project with fewer resources (for example, a marketing launch) the group may consider not just the skill types necessary but particular individuals, especially if the project has a short duration. In this situation, the manager should take on a partial relationship management role in that he or she must be able to accept a variety of relationships with members of the team.
Without strong managerial power, organization will not be able to perform at its full potential, because control and manipulation of organisational resources involves the selection of product opportunities and the commitment of human and financial resources to achieve these objectives. It is based on strategic product objectives and resource commitments to these objectives are translated into specific projects and programs. Planning is as a forecasting and selecting of objectives with the policies, programmes and procedures for achieving them.
Motivation and Encouragement
The manager can also gain power directing staff efforts (their driving force) towards the successful attainment of the goals and objectives of the organisation. This way is important because it involves goal-directed behaviour and ability to contribute to a solution. Employees are motivated when they expect that a course of action is likely to lead to the attainment of a goal and a valued reward – one that satisfies their needs. It is reasonable to believe that strong commitment to work is likely to result in conscientious and self-directed application to do the job, regular attendance, nominal supervision and a high level of effort. This requires considerable sensitivity, and the manager, in this new environment, will need to have developed this capability to a fine art (Robbins, 2002).
Managerial power might be gain if the team needs to very quickly develop an identity and common ground on which they can move forward. The team members do not have to like each other but they certainly have to respect a manager and recognize the contribution that each makes to the success of the project. Nevertheless, throughout the life of the project there will always be a tension between the individual team members, the overall development and work of the team and the achievement of the organisational objectives, and if a manager is able to gain strong managerial power, it will help to reduce tension and possible conflicts in groups (Handy, 1993).
Knowledge and Skills
A manager might gain managerial power using his knowledge and skills (expertise). This power is based on the subordinate’s perception of the manager as some one who is competent and who has some special knowledge or expertise in a given area. Managerial power should be based on credibility and clear evidence of knowledge or expertise; for example, the expert knowledge of ‘functional’ specialists such as the personnel manager, management accountant or systems analyst. On the other hand, this managerial power is usually limited to narrow, well-defined areas. For example, if a manager has the ability to control rewards and punishments but subordinates do not believe this, then in effect the leader has no reward or coercive power (Armstrong, 2001).
Knowledge is as much if not more concerned with people and how they acquire, exchange and disseminate knowledge as it is about information technology. That is why it has become an important area for managers, who are in a strong position to exert influence in this aspect of people management. Strong practical skills and knowledge of the manager will be benefited in any process or practice of creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge, wherever it resides, to enhance learning and performance in organizations. Following Craigs “these people are powerful because of their technical expertise in a particular field. As experts transition into managerial positions, they mustrecognize the need to add to their skill set by learning to influence employee behavior” (Craigs, 2006).
On the other hand, knowledge and practical skills of the manager promotes a climate of commitment and trust. As the most important it helps to advise on the design and development of organizations which facilitate knowledge sharing through practice (groups of people who share common concerns about aspects of their work), and teamwork. In addition, it advises on resourcing policies and provide resourcing services which ensure that valued employees who can contribute to knowledge creation and sharing are attracted and retained.
For every manager, it is crucial to exercise the role of a leader to gain managerial power. A common view is that the job of the manager requires the ability of leadership and that leadership is in effect a sub-set of management; although leadership is a special attribute which can be distinguished from other elements of management. On the other hand, “today’s manager with great leadership quality will be more successful than just being the leader” (Srivastava, 2006).
The manager might exercise authority as an attribute of position. In this case the manager is seen as a leader because of a stated position in the hierarchy. Leadership, however, is more than just adherence to a formal role prescription. It is more than eliciting mechanical behaviour which results from a superior-subordinate relationship in a hierarchical structure. Strong managerial skills such as the ability to motivate and inspire employees is a core competence for the best managers. In order to achieve optimal goals three basics should be taken into account: motivation, reward and commitment.
Within an organisation, leadership influence will be dependent upon the type of power that the leader can exercise over other people. The exercise of power is a social process which helps to explain how different people can influence the behaviour/actions of others.
To gain managerial power, it is important to evaluate sources of power and their influence on employees.
Reward power is based on the subordinate’s perception that the leader has the ability and resources to obtain rewards for those who comply with directives; for example, pay, promotion, praise, recognition, increased responsibilities and allocation of resources. One way in which to review the performance and potential of staff is through a system of performance appraisal. It is important that members of the organisation know exactly what is expected of them, and the yardsticks by which their performance and results will be measured. Appraisal systems can be used to measure attitudes, behaviour and performance. Performance appraisals should be developed as an integrated part of the total personnel strategy of the organization.
Legitimate power is based on the subordinate’s perception that the leader has a right to exercise influence because of the leader’s role or position in the organisation. Legitimate power is based on authority, for example that of managers and supervisors within the hierarchical structure of an organisation. Legitimate power is therefore ‘position’ power because it is based on the role of the leader in the organisation, and not on the nature of the personal relationship with others. “However, without personal power, legitimate or position power has its limitations” (Craigs, 2006).
Referent power is based on the subordinate’s identification with the leader. The leader exercises influence because of perceived attractiveness, personal characteristics, reputation or what is called ‘charisma’. For example, a particular manager may not be in a position to reward or punish certain subordinates, but may still exercise power over the subordinates because the manager commands their respect or esteem (Robbins, 2002).
For instance, line managers are on hand to observe directly the performance of their staff. They will actually see, and be directly affected by, for example, lateness of staff, unsatisfactory work, insufficient training, low morale, staff unrest, or poor planning of work duties and responsibilities. As an element function, personnel is an integral part of any managerial activity. It is the line managers who have the immediate responsibility for personnel management (Handy, 1993).
Compensation and Managerial Power
Recent years, a great attention is given to question of managerial power and compensation. Researchers (Frey, Kucher, 1999) state that: “According to the widely used Managerial Power Model, a higher hierarchical position with associated higher power leads to higher compensation” (Frey, Kucher, 1999). They found that contemporary compensation and benefit issues for managers do not play important role in managerial power at the workplace. In the light of the company’s articulated strategy, management now turns to determining reward strategy and compensation policies.
Today, companies strategy assist in making the business case and fixing the reward package in terms of the confirmed need for an expatriate appointment and a reasoned cost/benefit analysis. Analysis provided by Frey and Kucher (1999) shows that: “ there is a non-positive relationship between power position and compensation, if one takes into account all relevant factors influencing total compensation” (Frey, Kucher, 1999).
Contemporary compensation issues include: managing employees expectations; adding ‘appropriate’ value to compensation packages; ‘localization’ of compensation; cost containment; global pension schemes; integration of HR planning with compensation; management development as a crucial factor in compensation planning; regionalization; revisiting the ‘balance sheet’ concept. (Holmstrom, n.d.). The authors underlines that a successful reward strategy encompasses much more than the compensation package, although that may be the key practical element in ensuring that the appointee, partner and family set off on the assignment with confidence and in a positive frame and is focused strongly on helping partners to resolve dual-career issues.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Taking into account information mentioned above, it is possible to say that managerial power could be gain in different ways. The most important is that power in one area affect different areas and organizational process. Managerial power directed at meeting group or individual needs must be related to the needs of the task. It is impossible to consider individuals in isolation from the group or to consider the group without referring to the individuals within it. If any need is neglected, one of the others will suffer and the leader will be less successful (Kraiger et al, 2004).
Gaining power, managers should ensure that the workers accepts and understand what is involved. Checking should be done periodically, and the superior should be willing to listen to the ideas of subordinates; authority must be given to subordinates, as a manager cannot make all the decisions personally.
To be effective managerial power should be based on personal qualities of the manager, organizational goals and strategies. For instance, wile senior executives plan the direction of the organization, managers at various level should prepare plans for their own section which are part of the overall aims of the organization. Plans should be developed from the lower levels of administration whose reaction and responses may change and help to form plans. Organisations regard personality as being of key significance in their decision making, and for this reason strong managerial power should be gained through personal traits of the manager and his ability to lead and motivate subordinates.
Managers might see themselves more as conservators and regulators of the existing order of affairs with which they identify, and from which they gain rewards. Their sense of identity does not depend upon membership or work roles and they search out opportunities for change. The efforts made by relationship management to maintain the balance of the socio-technical system will influence people’s attitudes, the behaviour of individuals and groups, and thereby the level of performance and effectiveness. The manager role is that he or she must be able to accept a variety of relationships with members of the target audience.
Strong managerial power should help to establish an effective framework of rules which enables decision making to be delegated with results which are fairly well predictable. Managerial power will help in guiding and supervising of the workers, and management staff. These subordinates must be orientated into the undertaking’s ways, guided towards improved performance and motivated to work effectively towards enterprise goals.
- Armstrong, M. 2001. Human Resource Management. 8th edn. Kogan Page.
- Boeker, W. 1992. Power and Managerial Dismissal: Scapegoating at the Top Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 37, p. 400-405.
- Craigs, A. F. 2006. Management: Power Within Leadership Styles. http://www.employmenttimesonline.com/employers/article.php?ID=224
- Handy, C.B. 1993. Understanding Organisations, Fourth Edition London: Penguin.
- Holmstrom, B. n.d. Pay without Performance and the Managerial Power Hypothesis: A Comment. Retrieved form: www.pay-without-performance.com/ Holmstrom_4-19-06.pdf?abstract_id=868513
- Fairholm, Gilbert W. 1993. Organizational Power Politics: Tactics in Organizational Leadership. Praeger Publishers.
- Frey, B.S., Kucher, M. 1999. Managerial Power and Compensation. Working Paper 28. December. Retrieved form: collection.ethbib.ethz.ch/ show?type=incoll&nr=541&part=text
- Kraiger, Kurt; Mclinden, Daniel; Casper, Wendy J. Winter, 2004, Human Resource Management, Vol. 43 Issue 4, p. 337-351.
- Morgan, G. 1997. Images of Organization. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
- Reed A. 2001. Innovation in Human Resource Management. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
- Robbins, S. 2002. Organizational Behavior. Pearson Higher.
Srivastava, R.K. 2006. Managerial leadership – not just leadership. Retrieved from http://www.indiainfoline.com/phar