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Louise Ripley

Gender Issues in Management
Types of Power

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power lines

The literature on power is full of terms we are all familiar with but which are difficult to define, including power itself. Power can be defined simply and informally as the potential to get someone to do something, usually that they don't want to do, and influence can be defined as the ability to do so.

Remember when discussing issues of differences in power, that power problems do not occur only at the very top of the hierarchy. A woman on the assembly line may be abused by the foreperson immediately above her in the chain.

Types of power can be described in terms of how widely the power is exercised.

Type of Power Examples
Personal feeling in control of yourself and your environment; feeling good about yourself
Interpersonal one-on-one; getting someone to do something
Organizational how you interact with your environment; getting things done

from Vinnicombe, Susan and Nina L. Colwill (1995) The Essence of Women in Management. London: Prentice Hall International.

waving hand Exercise
Types of
Power - 1
Give us some examples from your workplace or school of these three different kinds of power as related to management.
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.

Types of power also can be described in terms of how it is obtained.  

Type of Power Obtained By  Examples From Marketing
Legitimate Contract Mr. Submarine can require its franchisees to use only one kind of bread dough because they signed a contract agreeing to do this when they bought the franchise
Coercive Force WalMart has strict requirements for suppliers and can enforce them because of the huge size of a WalMart order
Reward Giving something to encourage doing it A manufacturer in Vancouver gives its distributors a discount of 5% on all orders they place before the manufacturer starts their inventory count
Expert Having more experience A new distributor in New Brunswick agrees to process orders in the same way as the two other dealers do who have been working there successfully for 40 years
Referent Appealing to a common goal The V.P. in General Motors head office convinces a dealer in Calgary to improve her service because it will not only give GM a better reputation but improve the dealer's profit
Information Knowing certain things The soft drink distributor looking for a sale gets to the small-town grocery store early because he knows that the manager is an early riser and is often in the store by 7 a.m. and at his friendliest 
waving hand Exercise
Types of
Power - 2
Give us some examples from your workplace or school of these six different kinds of power as related to management.
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.

Remember too, as a recent student pointed out, these types of power can all be used in combination.

Power issues are rampant in all organizations. Sometimes they are obvious, as when a boss tells an employee to finish typing a proposal by noon or she's fired (Legitimate Power). Or a supervisor might tell the clerk that if she types the proposal by noon she can have two hours for lunch (Reward Power), or might prevail upon the clerk's goodwill to convince her that if she gets the proposal done by noon, the whole department will look good in the eyes of the big boss (Referent Power). Often, power issues are subtle, as in the ways we introduce ourselves.

waving hand Exercise
A man greets a woman from his department with these words, "Hello Janet, I'm Mr. Smith; we're going to be working together on this project." What kind of power is Mr. Smith using and what is wrong with his approach? What can a manager do who encounters this kind of language in his/her work area?
Post your answer in the Moodle Discussion Group.
As to who opens the door for whom, it's either who gets there first or who is carrying less. There is a story of Napoleon Bonaparte who, when walking with a society matron on the street, encountered servants carrying heavy bundles. The society matron angrily ordered the servants to make way for Napoleon, but he stepped aside to let them pass, saying, "Respect the burden, Madame." 
portrait of Napoleon
For more on types of power see Transactional vs Transformational in the section on Leadership. These two topics are unavoidably intertwined.  

Sheryl Sandberg's Book Lean In

waving hand Exercise
Sandberg Power
How does Sheryl Sandbert's book Lean In help you further understand the topic of this unit?
Post your answer in the Moodle  Discussion Group.
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AP/ADMS/WMST3120 3.0 Gender Issues in Management
York University, Toronto
M Louise Ripley, M.B.A., Ph.D.