Specific operating organisation

Critically evaluate any ONE model of managerial power, in context of the operation of a specific operating organisation. How useful is the model in helping mangers to understand their role? Having worked in the central London branch of Warehouse, a large women’s fashion retailer for the past year, I will be evaluating French and Raven’s model of power in this context. While there is no one categorization scheme of power, the typology put forth in 1959 by French and Raven is still widely applicable. They identified five main bases of power, and define power “as the ability to exercise influence and influence as the ability to bring about change.” (French and Raven 1959)

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A manager is a ‘person who is in charge of an organization or group of staff, responsible for administering and regulating the activities, and training of a group’1. The manager should be able to coordinate his time effectively in order to implement and complete tasks on time. It can be said that every manager has a basic yet similar set of duties, for example, coordinating staff, disseminating information, reporting to senior management & stakeholders, effective time management and dealing with staff queries. From an employees’ point of view, a manager is seen as a multitalented person who can carry out large and complex tasks with ease.

In the Argyll St branch of Warehouse, there is one manager who undertakes the responsibilities stated above, and several supervisors who, in absence of the manager, take the place of the manager but only on a short term basis. In context of the French and Raven model, it can be assumed that the manager and the supervisors of the store have the same role, however the manager’s relationship with her staff is a more formal one than that of the supervisors and the sales staff. This is due to the fact that the degree of formality between the manger and their staff depends on the amount of power and influence they have over their staff.

“The manager has power over employees to the extent that the manager is able to get employees to behave in a way that they would otherwise not have”2. It is therefore important to note that if the manager were to deal with the staff in an aggressive manner, a more formal working relationship would develop, with perhaps a feeling of resentment on the part of the employee. However, a more informal working atmosphere would mean that the employee could have a freer relationship with the manager, therefore contributing ideas or solutions and providing a more informal approach to achieving the daily tasks. It is vital to note that power can only arise when resources are scarce, and as mentioned above, French and Raven identified five main power sources: legitimate power, reward power, coercive power, expert power, and referent power.

Out of these three power bases, legitimate, reward, and coercive make up what is called position power, or power that normally accrues to the office, not the office-holder. First-line managers usually rely on position power. The last two (expert and referent) make up what is called personal power, and is what top-level leaders usually rely upon. Research has shown that legitimate and reward power produce the quickest gains in worker performance, in terms of generating compliance in following orders, but research has also shown that expert and referent power produces commitment, “where workers share the leader’s point of view and enthusiastically carry out instructions, giving more than 100%.”

Each power base tends to affect each of the other bases as is the case in Warehouse. So, the extent to which people are willing to grant personal power to a manager depends greatly on their perception of the manager’s ability to provide rewards and punishments. In the same way, managers are more likely to promote and delegate positional power to people who they feel are respected, liked, and have expertise.4 For example, if the manager at Warehouse feels that there is a member of staff that would be capable of having supervisor responsibilities, is well respected and liked by other members of staff, and has sufficient experience, then they would suggest that that member of staff start training to be a supervisor.