Determining the way managers and subordinates

‘In any organisational setting power and control relations are crucial in determining the way managers and subordinates work together. ‘ Explain and discuss. In order to adequately answer the question of how power and control are crucial determinants in the way that managers and subordinates work together, I will assess each of these elements separately and in conclusion outline the ways in which both of these elements contribute to the way managers and subordinates work together in an organisational setting.

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Work organisations are not only systems of hierarchical structure, they are also systems of social relationships, status and power. It has been said that power concerns the capacity of individuals to exert their will over others and produce results consistent with their interests and objectives. Power can be exerted not only by individuals but also by groups, sections, departments and organisations and is the principal means of directing and controlling organisational member’s goal-orientated activities. Managers can use power tactics in order to gain control of organisational resources.

Responsible managers strive for socialised power, directed at helping others, while avoiding personalised power, directed at helping oneself. Power is a fundamental feature of work organisations and is necessary for the efficient functioning of organisations. It is central to the framework of order and system of command through which the work and activities of the organisation are carried out. Once power is obtained it can be used to influence decision making so that the organisation pursues goals that favour their individual, functional and divisional interests.

John French and Betram Raven proposed a ‘relational view’ of power, named ‘Power as a property of relationships’ in which power is treated as a relationship between a power holder and others, rather than just a property of the individual. This perspective takes the view that followers need to perceive that the leader as access to rewards, sanctions, expertise and so on, therefore the exercise of power depends on beliefs, perceptions, and desires of the followers. An individual may have access to rewards or possess expertise, but if his followers believe that he does not, they may be unwilling to comply.

Similarly, a person may lack reward capacity or expertise but will gain compliance from others by persuading others that they do possess these. Therefore, an individual can manipulate others (followers) beliefs and perceptions to gain compliance. Part of French and Raven’s proposal came the five bases of power, Reward power, coercive power, referent power, legitimate power and expert power. The five power base are both interrelated and vital. Reward power involves obtaining compliance using rewards, coercive power obtains compliance through threatened or actual punishment.

Legitimate power acquires compliance through formal authority whereas Expert power secures compliance through one’s knowledge or information. Finally, Referent power uses charisma or personal attraction to gain compliance. Managerial power has three possible outcomes, which include commitment, compliance or resistance. These three outcomes depend greatly on the type of power style which a manager chooses to adopt and it is suggested that organisational commitment is higher among executives whose superiors exercise socialised power than among colleagues with ‘power-hungry’ bosses.

For example, ‘power-hungry’ bosses may adopt techniques such offering rewards or threatened punishment when executing power, but these strategies only tend to produce compliance and sometimes even resistance. On the other hand, superiors who practice socialised power may use approaches such as knowledge, information and charisma when using power, and it is this technique which shows greatest potential for improving job performance and satisfaction and for reducing turnover as it tends to foster commitment.

Commitment is superior to compliance because it is driven by internal motivation, the employee does not require constant reminders and is motivated by themselves to follow the organisations objectives. Employees who merely comply require frequent prompts of power from the boss to keep them headed in a productive direction. Committed employees tend to be self-starters who do not require close supervision, a key success factor in today’s flatter, team-orientated organisations. Power can help an organisation in tow main ways.

Firstly, managers can use power to control people and other resources so that they cooperate and help to achieve an organisations current goals. Secondly, managers can also use power to engage in politics and influence the decision-making process to help promote new, more appropriate orgainsational goals. Control is also an integral part of the process of management and a key element for any organisation, playing an important role in the relationship between managers and their subordinates..

Control is not only a function of the formal organisation and hierarchical structure of authority, it is also a feature of organisational behaviour and a function of interpersonal influence. The whole purpose of managerial control is the improvement in performance at both the individual and organisational level. Control involves the planning and organisation of work functions, and guiding and regulating the activities of staff. A social organisation is an ordered arrangement of individual human interactions.

Control processes help circumscribe typical behaviours and keep them conformant to the rational plan of the organisation. Organisations require a certain amount of conformity as well as the integration of diverse activities. It is the function of control to bring about conformance to organisational requirement and achievement of the ultimate purposes of the organisation. At the organisational level, management need to exercise ‘control’ over the behaviour and actions of staff in order to ensure a satisfactory level of performance.

Managerial control systems are a means of checking progress to determine whether the objectives of the organisation are being achieved. Control provides a check on the execution of work and on the success or failure of the operations of organisations. There are two main types of control which can be used within the organisation and whichever one of these two styles is chosen plays an important factor in the relationship between the manager and his/her subordinates.

Firstly, there is ‘Behavioural Control’ which is based upon the direct personal supervision of the employees. This form of control appears more useful to the needs of individual managers in their attempts to control subordinates in one department or section. There is also ‘Output Control’ which is based on the measurement of outputs and the results achieved. This form of control serves the needs of the organisation as a whole and is used largely because of the demand for simple measurement of organisational performance.

However, whatever nature of control and whatever form it takes, there are five essential elements for a management control system to be truly successful. These factors include the planning of what is desired, establishing standards of performance, monitoring actual performance, comparing actual achievement against the planned target and also rectifying the taking of corrective action. One view of control is based on classical approach and traditional assumptions of organisation and management.

Control is viewed as an essential feature of formal organisation and a hierarchical structure of authority. An alternative view of control is more in keeping with the human relations approach, control is seen as a feature of interpersonal influence and takes place within a network of interaction and communication. While the need for some form of control is constant, the extent and manner of control is variable. The exercise of control is an expression of management systems and styles of behaviour.

In conclusion, power and control must be used because managers must influence those they depend on. Power and control are both crucial in the development of managers’ self-confidence and willingness to support subordinates. From this perspective, power and control should be accepted as a natural part of any organisation. Managers should recognise and develop their own power and co-ordinate and support the work of subordinates; it is powerlessness, not power, that undermines organisational effectiveness and relationships between managers and their subordinates.