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way of thinking.8 Similarly, anthropologists report that American society emphasizes indi-
vidualism, which, in American work cultures, can be found in norms that emphasize indi-
vidual rewards and value charismatic leaders.
Another example is that national cultures whose members prefer to avoid uncertain-
ties tend to have companies with closed-system, bureaucratic cultures rather than open-
system, enterprise organizational cultures.9 Dutch organizations, for instance, are more
likely to have bureaucratic cultures than are Danish organizations.

What Companies Have Built a Reputation Around Their Corporate

In this text we have already mentioned several companies that have famous organizational
cultures, including Lincoln Electric and Southwest Airlines. Other companies with famous
cultures are IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Goldman Sachs, and Starbucks. Companies with infa-
mous cultures that are now out of business were Enron and Arthur Anderson.
Consider the case of Wal-Mart, one of the most famous organizational cultures of all time.
Wal-Mart created its organizational culture around the image of its founder, Sam Wal-
ton, a small town merchant who became an American tycoon. Sam Walton opened his
first Walton’s 5 & 10 in 1950 in Bentonville, Arkansas, and when he died in 1992 he
was running a phenomenally successful empire of retail stores nationwide. At the time,
he was the world’s second richest man, behind Bill Gates. Today his company has suc-
cessfully entered such international markets as Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Brazil,
South Korea, China, and Puerto Rico.
“Genuine, polite, civic-minded, and wholesome,” are characteristics of both Walton and
Wal-Mart.10 Walton was one of the earlier employers to call his employees “associ-
ates,” give them stock, and share store data with them. He was “enthusiastic, positive,
folksy, and nurturing,” a charismatic leader who did the hula dance down Wall Street
when Wal-Mart’s net profits exceeded 8 percent.11
Wal-Mart’s employees don’t “work for” someone, they “help out.” The Wal-Mart mes-
sage to them is that the people who work hard and take part in the company’s profit-
sharing program become rich and happy.
As we discuss various aspects of organizational culture, we will use Wal-Mart to illustrate
our points.

How Do You Discover an Organization’s Culture?

It’s your first day on the job and you have just walked through the door of your new com-
pany. How do you figure out what its culture is?

What Do You Need to Know?

Think of a company’s culture as existing on four levels, from the most concrete and obvi-
ous to the most abstract and unconscious.12 Understanding each level demands some
observation and thought on your part.

LEVEL 1: BEHAVIORS AND ARTIFACTS At the first, most superficial level, take note of
the organization’s behaviors and artifacts, the visible but not always decipherable indica-
tors of the company culture. Level 1 includes all behaviors, and also such subtle aspects as
the language and metaphors people use,corporate rituals and ceremonies, and stories and
legends.13 Also consider how the company designs its physical space—from its architec-
ture to the art it hangs on the walls.
Some visible aspects of an organization’s culture have symbolic value. One reason
researchers and practitioners alike are so interested in corporate culture is that they recog-
nize the importance of these symbols in helping people make sense of their organizational
life.14 When assessing an organization’s culture, always consider the potential symbolic
value of its behaviors and artifacts.
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Using your observations, determine whether a company’s culture is:15

Process-oriented or results-oriented.
Does it emphasize bureaucratic routines to the detriment of organizational outcomes?
Job-oriented or employee-oriented.
Does it focus more on job performance than it does on members’ well-being?
Professionally or parochially oriented.
Do members identify primarily with their professions or with the organization?
An open system or a closed system.
Is the company open to internal and external communication, and does it easily admit
outsiders and newcomers, or not?
Tightly controlled or loosely controlled.
Is the company formal and punctual or informal and casual?
Pragmatic or normative.
Is the company flexible or rigid in dealing with its environment, particularly its customers?
You can learn a lot about Wal-Mart’s culture by taking a walk through its stores. Shoppers can
shop on Sundays. Buying guns is easy and inexpensive.
Also, the culture is adaptive. A 1998 report pointed out that officials were removing certain
magazines and marking some compact disks “Sanitized for your protection.”16 In late 2006, the
company was stocking the morning-after pill and had signed up with the national Gay and Les-
bian Chamber of Commerce.17
The annual meeting also demonstrates the company’s culture.18 Held in Bud Walton and
Barnhill Arenas, the home of the basketball dynasty the Arkansas Razorbacks, the meeting
features celebrities like Nolan Ryan, Marie Osmond, Barbara Bush, and Joe Montana. Ath-
letes often lead the crowd in the Wal-Mart cheer—“Give me a W, an A.. . .” Little criticism is
tolerated at the annual meeting. Most questions from the floor come from supporters asking
questions such as, “When will Wal-Mart came to my area?” Challenging questions are
quickly dismissed.

LEVEL 2: SHARED PERSPECTIVES The second level of organizational culture is the level
of shared perspectives, the underlying rules and norms that guide solutions to the typical
problems encountered by organizational members. Perspectives are relatively concrete
ideas, and organizational members are usually aware of them. For example, employees can
typically describe how their organization approaches problems, and they can define what
constitutes acceptable behavior in their company.
Wal-Mart has three basic rules. The first is that the customer is boss. The second is “Get it done
by sundown.” And the third is “Greet any customer who is within 10 feet.”19 A company slogan
is “Exceed customer expectations.”20 In 1997, because it was going global, the company
changed its “Buy American” program with a “Made Right Here” program, which promotes
Canadian products in Canada and Brazilian products in Brazil.

LEVEL 3: AWARENESS The level of awareness consists of the ideals, standards, and goals
held in consensus in the organization. These are the ideas held in common by which peo-
ple judge other people and their behaviors.
Some of these values are expressed in a company’s mission statement or statement of
philosophy, whereas others are not. Some values are clear and can be agreed upon, while
others are complex, ambiguous, conflicting, and in flux. For example, there may be incon-
sistencies between what people say they value and what they actually do, or ambiguities
about what statements and symbols actually mean.21
Wal-Mart culture emphasizes religion, patriotism, a classless collective identity, science, ratio-
nality, ecology, progressiveness, and low costs. The company’s values are embodied in the life
and myth of Sam Walton, who “went to great lengths to emphasize his old pick-up, his cheap
haircuts, and his hunting dogs,” and who bought his clothes at Wal-Mart.22
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LEVEL 4: UNCONSCIOUS ASSUMPTIONS The deepest level of organizational culture is

the unconscious assumptions that people hold about the nature of human beings, human
relationships, reality, time, space, and the relationship of individuals and organizations to
their environments. You discover both values and basic assumptions by listening thought-
fully to what people say and watching carefully what people do.
Sam Walton was a highly competitive person whose company reflects that ethic. Although he
maintained that the competition was always in fun, the evidence suggests a more serious com-
ponent, with managers and department heads being held closely accountable. The company is
the epitome of successful capitalism. An investor who bought 100 shares in 1970 for $1,650
would have $3 million only 30 years later.
The company is also a capitalistic “cultural force that both remakes and destroys our ideal-
ized past world and our emotional links to it. Wal-Mart is a participant in the destruction of the
small town culture that it mythologizes, while it also is recreating new patterns and identities.”23
The commentator Paul Harvey has said that in Wal-Mart there is “something better than
communism, socialism, and capitalism. We have created Enlightened Consumerism. The cus-
tomer is king again.”24

See Table17.1 for an overview of the levels of organizational culture.

How Do New Employees Learn an Organization’s Culture?

The main way for an employee to learn an organization’s culture is to become immersed in
it. By processes of socialization, employees learn a culture and adapt to it.

ORGANIZATIONAL SOCIALIZATION New employees learn and adapt to their organization’s

culture through organizational socialization, the process by which new members’ values,
norms, and behaviors align with those of the organization and permit them to participate as
members of the organization.25 New members are often uncertain about how to do their job,
how their performance will be evaluated, what is expected in terms of social behavior, and
what personal relationships will be useful to them.26 In short, they have a lot to learn.
Organizations often help newcomers to adapt by deliberately structuring the early stages
of their entry into the organization. This helps them to deal with their uncertainty and anxiety,
and instructs them in desired or necessary attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge.27 For exam-
ple, IBM’s new hire orientation continues throughout the employee’s first year.28 During that
time, employees who want to learn more about the company can utilize a one-and-a-half-day

TABLE 17.1 Overview: The Levels of Organizational Culture

Level Description Examples
Behaviors and artifacts Visible indicators How the offices are decorated,
who represents the company
in the media, how people dress
Shared perspectives Shared rules and norms Axioms such as “the customer
that employees use to always comes first”
guide problem solving
Awareness Ideals, standards, and goals Religion matters (or does not
held by most people in the matter) in this company
organization; the company’s
philosophy, whether written
down or not
Unconscious assumptions Unconscious beliefs people Competition is a necessary
hold about the nature of way of life
human beings, human
relationships, reality, time,
space, and the relationship
of individuals and
organizations to
their environments
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SUCCESSFUL SOCIALIZATION After all is said and done, what makes for a successful
socialization process?38 From the organization’s perspective, this depends on its estab-
lished goals. Some companies want a high level of conformity to their culture, while oth-
ers want less conformity and, indeed, some even want nonconformity. At a minimum,
organizations want employees who accept aspects of their roles that are pivotal to the orga-
nization’s mission so they can at least do their jobs at an acceptable level, and they expect
a certain style and decorum.39 If these goals are achieved, the socialization is successful.
From the individuals’ viewpoint, the socialization is successful if they are meeting career
goals without compromising essential aspects of their identity.


TION PROCESS Recent developments in communication technology, and part-time and tem-
porary workm suggest that in some cases the organizational socialization process may not
quite work as it has traditionally. When new organizational members will be part of a virtual
team, for example, their socialization depends less on learning traditional cultural signs and
symbols, and less on face–to-face interaction, than on what they learn through electronically
enhanced communication. Interestingly, for some newcomers, socializing individuals
remotely may be even more effective than traditional means. This is likely to be true for indi-
viduals who are especially nervous about interpersonal communications, or for those who pre-
fer an anonymous or noninteractive way to acquire information about their organizations.40

How Do Managers Use Organizational Culture to Improve

Organizational Effectiveness?
In this section we will take a look at several ways that organizational culture contributes to
organizational effectiveness.

How Does Culture Motivate Performance?

Culture motivates individuals, and it affects organizational performance overall. One way
to understand these effects is to compare strong and weak cultures. A second approach is to
identify several different types of cultures and compare their effectiveness in a variety of
environments. We will take a look at both approaches.


strong organizational cultures are often recognized by both insiders and outsiders as hav-
ing a certain style. In a strong organizational culture, the shared values and norms are clear,
consistent, and comprehensive.41 Values are intensely held and widely shared.42
To determine whether a culture is strong, you might ask the following questions:43
1. Have managers in competing firms commonly spoken of this company’s style or way
of doing things?
2. Has this firm both made its values known through a creed or credo and made a serious
attempt to encourage managers to follow them?
3. Has the firm been managed according to long-standing policies and practices other
than those of just the incumbent CEO?
Consider the culture of Microsoft.
Microsoft’s legendarily strong organizational culture is competitive and intense, a reflection of
founder Bill Gates’ own personal style. One of its features has been a norm of criticism through-
out the company—people challenge everything from what the company is doing in the market-
place to how it is run internally. Another feature is its harsh performance appraisal system: The
company uses a bell curve to rate employees in each group, so that for every high scorer there is
also a low scorer. And this in a company that hires only the best! Yet, 85 percent of the com-
pany’s employees feel strongly that they are proud to work for Microsoft,44 and more than 90
percent of the applicants who are offered jobs accept.45
Strong organizational cultures enhance individual performance by energizing employ-
ees with engaging ideals,46 providing identity and meaning,47 and shaping and coordinating
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employees’ behavior.48 Strong cultures can also enhance corporate performance. There is a
positive relationship between strength of corporate culture and companies’ long-term eco-
nomic performance, but the relationship is modest, and some firms with weak cultures also
have strong performance.49 When they are operating in relatively stable environments, firms
with strong cultures exhibit superior and more reliable performance than firms with weak
cultures.50 However, when the company’s environment becomes more volatile, this advan-
tage is often lost.
Sometimes strong cultures are maladaptive. As one researcher puts it, “In firms
with strong corporate cultures, managers tend to march energetically in the same direc-
tion in a well-coordinated fashion. That alignment, motivation, organization, and con-
trol can help performance, but only if the resulting actions fit an intelligent business
strategy for the specific environment in which a firm operates. . . . Strong cultures with
practices that do not fit a company’s context can actually lead intelligent people to
behave in ways that are destructive—that systematically undermine an organization’s
ability to survive and prosper.”51
Financially, Microsoft is arguably the most successful technology company of all time. But in
recent years its stock has struggled, and a big question for the company today is whether its
increased size, along with its strong culture, will be its downfall. In recent years employees have
complained about oppressive bureaucracy. The company’s compensation system has created a
culture of haves and have-nots, with newer employees in the have-nots category because stock
deals are less lucrative than in the past. Also, efforts to trim costs, such as asking employees to
make a $40 co-payment on prescription drugs, have been met with disbelief.

Researchers Jeffrey Pfeffer and John Veiga estimate that only about 12 percent of
today’s companies have a sufficiently motivating culture to give them a competitive advan-
tage.52 Worse, some companies actively weaken or even destroy their organizational cul-
tures because they ignore their human resources in favor of the short-term bottom line.
Based on their research and consulting experience, Pfeffer and Veiga suggest that compa-
nies should build their cultures in a variety of ways, including offering job security, using
teams to minimize bureaucracy, reducing status differences, sharing information, and mak-
ing compensation contingent on organizational performance.

cultural fit Will Microsoft’s strong culture continue to enhance its competitive advantage? Will the com-
The extent to which an pany maintain its entrepreneurial capabilities, or evolve into something less innovative? In
organizational culture suits the 1995, Bill Gates, having ignored the Internet, led the company in an inspiring comeback to deal
organization’s circumstances, and with it. But Gates is now focusing on product development, and his friend Steve Ballmer is the
predicts how well an organization chief executive officer. Stay tuned.
will perform under those
A second approach to organizational culture and performance examines different types of
A type of culture which controls cultures and compares how they perform in different circumstances.53 This approach looks
mainly by developing in its for a cultural fit.
members shared understandings For example, if you think of organizational culture as a way of controlling and gov-
about legitimate authority and fair erning an organization, you can imagine three distinct types of cultures. One type, the
treatment of employees. bureaucracy, governs through developing in organizational members shared understand-
ings about legitimate authority and fair treatment of employees. Another type, the market
market culture
A type of organizational culture
culture, controls by sharing among organizational members complex understandings
which controls mainly by sharing about competition and prices. The third type, the clan, controls by developing in its mem-
among its members complex bers a deep social understanding, specific to their organization, about its general objec-
understandings about competition tives, methods and values. Although in reality organizations use all three types of control,
and prices. their emphases differ.
Because it emphasizes participation and openness, the clan is the most time-consuming
culture to develop and maintain.54 Building a clan is worth the effort, however, because it is
A type of organizational culture
which controls mainly by
likely to be more efficient than other cultures when the organization faces conditions of
developing in its members a deep ambiguity and complexity. On the other hand, the clan is less efficient than bureaucratic or
social understanding about its market cultures when the organization faces conditions characterized by low to moderate
general objectives, methods and complexity and uncertainty. For example, small high tech companies determined to launch
values. a new product often operate like clans, with intense interpersonal interactions and shared
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13 Power and Influence

What is power?
How can you identify the sources of power in your company?
Power sources versus power tactics
Formal versus informal power
Interpersonal source of power: the soft and the harsh
Other sources of power

How can you acquire power in your organization?

Prepare for the use of power
Apply power tactics
Engage in political behavior
Use networks and mentors
Understand empowerment

As a leader, what should you know about power?

How do leaders differ from power-holders?
Does power corrupt?

How can others acquire power over you?

What factors lead to obedience and resistance?
How are employees subject to routinization and dehumanization?
How do some managers intimidate their employees?
How powerful is deception?
What is the allure of toxic leaders?

How does a person’s view of power depend on culture?

Effects of national culture
Effects of organizational culture

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What do Donald Trump,

Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dr.
Phil have in common?

Organizational politics is about who you know rather than what you know. Whether
playing politics is a good idea or a bad idea depends on whom you ask.
Many companies strive to be meritocracies, in which the brightest and hardest
working people advance based on their merits. Although these companies may not
fully succeed, their belief that fair treatment is what motivates most employees
keeps them working hard to reduce influences such as nepotism and favoritism. For
example, when a position opens up, they make sure to inform all possible candi-
dates and make the selection process impartial.
Other companies are quite open about playing favorites. Nowhere is this more
true than in family-owned businesses. The real Trump apprentices are his three chil-
dren Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, all of whom plan to enter the Trump companies.
Getting an MBA is a Trump family tradition, and, The Donald rea-
sons, why start all over again when they can build on a base that
already exists? Trump points out that nepotism, whether among
friends or families, is the way the world works. “The fact is,” he
says, “I love my children and I hope they do a real good job.”1
So what do Donald Trump, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Dr. Phil have
in common? Trump’s children will enter his business. Paltrow is the
daughter of the Hollywood actor Blythe Danner and her husband
director Bruce Paltrow. And Dr. Phil’s son Jay McGraw is following
in his father’s footsteps as a talk show host. Are these offspring
innately talented, or do they simply know how to use the power of
family connections? Or both? How will their presence influence
others who work in their companies?
The influence of nepotism is just one example of how power
works in organizations. In this chapter you will learn about orga-
nizational power and influence—including how to acquire them
in today’s organizations.

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What Is Power?
power Power is the ability to mobilize resources to accomplish some end.2 In organizations, this
The ability to mobilize resources to generally means that it is the ability to get someone to do something. Sometimes power has
accomplish some end. a negative connotation, implying coercion. For example, “He used his power to get her the
job,” implies that the candidate’s qualifications alone would not have been sufficient and
that someone had to be influenced to hire her. Early definitions of power were, in fact,
often negative: “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B
would not otherwise do.”3 However, today’s view of power is generally more balanced.
influence The related term influence also involves the ability to get someone to do something,
The ability to move or impel some- and is often used interchangeably with power. However, influence typically has a positive
one to some action, typically has a connotation, suggesting that the individuals who have been influenced have gone along
positive connotation, in that it somewhat willingly. For example, “He influenced the decision.” The term authority sug-
impels someone to go along with gests legitimate control or command over others. For example, “As her superior, he has the
something willingly. authority to tell her what to do.”
Of course, in organizational life there are many common terms that suggest some
Legitimate control or command
aspect of power, including the expressions “power base,” “the powers that be,” “power
over others. play,” “power structure” “personal power,” and “political power.” Even the term leadership
suggests power—or is it influence?—over others.
In earlier, simpler societies, the exercise of power was usually direct and face-to-face,
whereas today power often operates indirectly.4 The policy set by a CEO is implemented
down through the many levels of the organization. Power extends throughout a corporation
in part because of hierarchical relationships, making everyone answerable to someone and,
ultimately, to the top person.

How Can You Identify the Sources of Power in Your

There are many sources of power in an organization. They include formal and informal
sources, interpersonal sources, indirect sources such as manipulation, and control of

Power Sources versus Power Tactics

power sources Power sources are the entire repertoire of behaviors that an individual could potentially
The entire repertoire of behaviors call upon to influence others, whereas tactics are the behaviors actually used in a particu-
that an individual could potentially lar situation.5 Thus, a manager might tell a chronically late employee to change his or her
call upon to influence others. behavior, but it is most likely the fact that the manager is a source of potential punishment,
power tactics rather than the reminder itself, that has the larger influence on changing the employee’s
The behaviors an individual behavior. We will cover interpersonal sources of power next, and power tactics below.
actually uses in a particular
situation to influence others. Formal versus Informal Power
formal power Power is a social process that is either formal or informal.6 Formal power originates in the
Power based on the principle of principle of hierarchy—the belief that power should be held disproportionately, with
hierarchy. those higher in the organization having more and those lower having less. In contrast,
informal power is reciprocal—individuals help each other out because of anticipated
hierarchy mutual gain, and conflict is minimal. See Table 13.1 for examples of the types of relation-
The disproportionate holding of ships that exemplify formal and informal power.
power, with those higher in the
organization having more power
Interpersonal Sources of Power: The Soft and the Harsh
and those lower having less.
What are the interpersonal sources of power available to individuals in organizations?
informal power There are two main categories: personal (“soft”) sources and formal (“harsh”) sources.7
A proportionate holding of power, See Table 13.2 for the sources of power in each category.
in which individuals help each Using soft sources of power rather than harsh sources is more likely to lead to satis-
other out because of anticipated
faction and commitment on the part of subordinates,8 as well as to a greater willingness to
mutual gain.
comply.9 Most new young managers rely on expert power and referent power—establish-
ing a reputation based on their expertise, and developing an interpersonal network.10
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TABLE 13.1 Formal and Informal Power Relationships in Organizations

Formal Power Informal Power
Relationships Relationships
Individual level Boss–subordinate Friendships
relationship Mentoring
Mentoring Romantic
programs relationships
Organizational Hierarchical Cliques
level structures
Cross-functional Networks
workgroups and
project teams

TABLE 13.2 Overview: Sources of Power in Organizations

Person A influences
Person B because Examples from
Person B. . . Organizational Life

Personal (“soft”)
sources of power
Referent power Identifies with, likes, A subordinate sees the
and admires Person A boss as a role model.
Expert power Believes Person A has An employee agrees to
relevant experience implement a policy
and knowledge created by the company’s
legal advisors.
Information power Is convinced by A work team is sold on a
Person A’s clear company redesign because
logic, argument, of the way the boss
or information presents it to them.
Formal (“harsh”)
sources of power
Coercive power Fears being punished Employees receive
if he or she does not tangible punishments
comply with Person A’s such as a pay cut,
wishes or intangible punishments
such as personal
Reward power Anticipates being rewarded Employees receive
if he or she complies with tangible rewards such as
Person A’s wishes money, or intangible
rewards such as personal
Legitimate power Accepts that Person A’s A boss tells a subordinate
formal position in the how to do his or her job.
organization gives him
or her the right to make
certain decisions.

Sources: J. R. P. French, “A Formal Theory of Power,” Psychological Review 63, 1956:181–194; J. R. P. French
and B. H. Raven, “The Bases of Social Power,” in D. Cartwright, ed., Studies in Social Power (Ann Arbor, MI:
Institute for Social Research, 1959):150–167; B. H. Raven, “The Bases of Power: Origins and Recent
Developments,” Journal of Social Issues 49 (4), 1993:227–251; B. H. Raven, J. Schwarzwald, and M.
Koslowsky, “Conceptualizing and Measuring a Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence,” Journal of
Applied Social Psychology 28 (4), February 15, 1998:307–332.
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Other Sources of Power

The sources of power described in Table 13.2 are all interpersonal and direct, describing
how one person influences another. However, not all power is direct. Indirect sources of
power include manipulation, providing information indirectly, and influencing third par-
ties.11 Control of resources is yet another type of power.

MANIPULATION Manipulation is changing some aspect of the targeted individuals or

their environment to achieve a desired goal. For example, if your goal is to prevent some-
one from dominating a meeting, you might assign him or her beforehand a consuming task
such as coordinating the slides with the speaker. Or if you do not want your employees to
meet and develop interpersonal networks (perhaps you think they will be time-wasters), do
not provide a lounge in which they might do so.

PROVIDING INFORMATION INDIRECTLY Telling someone to do something and explain-

ing why they should do it is quite a different process than only hinting and suggesting to
them what they might do. People in lower power positions are likely to be more successful
using the latter tactic. For example, rather than tell a doctor what medication is appropriate
for a patient’s illness, a nurse might suggest that a particular medication seemed helpful to
a patient down the hall who had a similar illness.

INFLUENCING THIRD PARTIES One way to influence others is to bring in a third party
who has some sort of power, such as expertise or referent power (contacts). A person’s
work group might be used as a third party to apply pressure, too. Of course, sometimes it
may be necessary to deal with an interfering third party by undermining the party’s legiti-
macy, expertise, or status as a role model.

CONTROL OF RESOURCES One way to bring others under your power is to take control of
the resources that they want or need, thus making them dependent on you. Resources peo-
ple often want include money, prestige, legitimacy, rewards and sanctions, expertise, and
the ability to deal with uncertainty.12 Resources vary in their importance, scarcity, and
nonsubstitutability.13 For instance, to an employee just out of college and paying off big
loans, money is important and scarce, and hardly anything can take its place, whereas to an
employee whose children are grown and whose savings are substantial, money is less
important and its scarcity does not matter, and more vacation time would be an adequate

How Can You Acquire Power in Your Organization?

Acquiring power requires setting a goal, acquiring sources of power, assessing which
influence strategy is likely to work best, preparing the scene, and taking action.14 We have
already discussed sources of power. Next let’s take a look at how to prepare for the use of
power and how managers choose among a variety of approaches for obtaining power—
power tactics, political behavior, networking, and empowerment.

Prepare for the Use of Power

When you are preparing to apply power, consider each of these factors: setting the stage,
enhancing and emphasizing your own power bases, minimizing the strength of the targeted
individual, and minimizing the strength of others who might influence the process.15

SETTING THE STAGE The first factor is literally setting the scene. Have you ever walked
into a professor’s office and seen a wall full of diplomas? Or a politician’s office and seen
a wall full of pictures of him or her with celebrities? Have you noticed that doctors often
wear a white laboratory coat? These people are setting the scene by showing you signs of
their expert, referent, and legitimate power. (By the way, how do you decorate your own
space? Is power a factor?)
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ENHANCING AND EMPHASIZING POWER BASES There are various ways people can
enhance their own power base in the eyes of others. They may make a point of refer-
ring to their role as a person’s boss, teacher, or doctor, thus emphasizing their legiti-
mate power over the person. They may self-promote, emphasizing their superior
knowledge or connections. They may make a request the other person is not likely to
accept, thus inducing guilt in preparation for another request. They may even intimi-
date, presenting the person with a fearful image and hinting at what harm might come
from disobeying them.

MINIMIZING THE OTHER PERSON’S STRENGTH This is another factor to consider when
you want to apply power. Subtle put-downs that decrease the other person’s self-esteem
and confidence may increase your own expert, informational, or legitimate power in the
person’s eyes.


damaging the image of potentially influential outsiders, thus reducing their expert,
legitimate, or informational power. For example, you suspect your boss wants to hire a
consultant whom you dislike, so you dig up and share some stories about how his or her
interventions have failed in other companies.
Obviously, the use of these last two types of preparation must be weighed carefully
against ethical and practical considerations. Not only might you have ethical concerns
about using them, you also might damage your reputation by using them, and you may also
create a backlash from the object of your power play.

Apply Power Tactics

Having established power bases and set the stage, it is now time to choose your tactics, the
actual behaviors you will apply. Although there are numerous tactics you can use to gain
power in organizations, research suggests a set of fundamental choices.16 Imagine, for
instance, that you want your boss to approve a project you have designed. Rank-order the
following tactics in terms of how likely it would be that you would use them to convince
your boss to approve your project. (Let 1 equal the most likely tactic. There are 10 tactics.)
Place the ranking in the space before the tactic.
1. _____ You explain to your manager how the costs of the project would be offset by
improved efficiency.
2. _____ To convince your boss that your project is a good idea, you appeal to your
boss’s values about innovation and staying competitive.
3. _____ At an early stage of the project development, you ask your boss for ideas.
4. _____ You comment on how successful your boss’s latest project has been, then
request help with your own.
5. _____ You offer to work longer hours in your usual assignments if you are allowed to
do this project.
6. _____ You call a meeting of like-minded peers to convince your boss of the merits of
the project.
7. _____ You point out that others at your level in other departments have been given
similar opportunities to initiate projects.
8. _____ You make a point of asking your boss about your proposal once every day.
9. _____ You obtain the support of higherups for your project.
10. _____ You ask your manager to initiate the change as a personal favor.
These behaviors exemplify the following tactics, in the same order. From your rank
ordering, you can get some idea of which power tactics you prefer.
1. Rational persuasion—Using logical arguments and factual evidence to persuade.
2. Inspirational appeals—Arousing enthusiasm by appealing to a person’s values,
ideals, or aspirations, or by increasing his or her self-confidence.
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3. Consultation—Getting a person involved with the plan or a change in order to enlist

his or her support and assistance.
4. Ingratiation—Using praise, flattery, or friendly or helpful behavior to establish a pos-
itive mood before you ask for something.
5. Exchange—Offering an exchange of favors now or in the future, including sharing in
the benefits of the proposed project.
6. Coalitions—Seeking the aid of others to persuade someone, or using the support of
others as a reason for a person to go along.
7. Legitimation—Claiming the authority or right to make a request, or showing how the
request is consistent with organizational policies or traditions.
8. Pressure—Making demands, threats, or frequently checking or reminding someone to
do what you want.
9. Upward appeals—Getting the support of higher ups to allow you to do what you want.
10. Personal appeals—Appealing to feelings of loyalty and friendship when asking for
Now consider which tactics research suggests are the best. When should you use a
particular tactic? On the one hand, when targeting peers and subordinates, there are many
techniques that can be effective. These include rational persuasion, consultation, collabo-
ration, and inspirational appeals. Using coalitions, legitimation, and pressure are not likely
to be effective.
On the other hand, not all of these tactics are likely to be effective when you, the
subordinate, are trying to influence your boss. When you are trying to influence your
boss or other higherups, the tactic most likely to be successful is rational persuasion.17

Engage in Political Behavior

Sometimes people act outside of their organizational roles to get power. We call this
political behavior political behavior or, in the vernacular, “playing politics.” Political behavior is defined
Activities that are not required as as activities that are not required as part of a person’s organizational role but that influ-
part of a person’s organizational ence, or attempt to influence, the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within the
role but which influence the organization.18
distribution of advantages and Political behavior has many important impacts on organizational life. To begin with,
disadvantages within the managers, according to one study, believe that playing politics does lead to a higher level
organization; also known as
of power, and that more power leads to more opportunities to engage in politics.19 Second,
“playing politics.”
some, though not all, political behavior does advance organizational goals. Third, in a less
positive vein, the perception that people are playing politics can lead to a variety of unde-
sirable outcomes, including job stress, aggressive behavior, reduced organizational com-
mitment, and turnover.20
What constitutes political behavior? A critical view suggests it exists when21:
 Favoritism, including nepotism, rather than merit determines who gets ahead.
 Yes-men get promoted, and good ideas are not put forward if doing so means dis-
agreeing with supervisors.
 An employee can get along by being a good guy, regardless of the quality of his or her
 Employees are not encouraged to speak out frankly when they are critical of well-
established ideas.
 Cliques and in-groups hinder effectiveness.
On the other hand, as we will see below, not all political behavior is counterproductive
to individuals or organizations.

PATTERNS OF POLITICAL BEHAVIOR Political behavior has distinct patterns.22 For one
thing, it is both internal and external. Internal politics includes the exchange of favors,
forming alliances, trading agreements, reprisals, and even symbolic protest gestures.
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External politics involves attempts to engage outsiders. Examples are leaking information
to the media, engaging in whistle blowing, or filing a lawsuit.
Political behavior also has a vertical–lateral dimension. Vertical political behav-
iors include complaining to a supervisor, bypassing the chain of command, and apple-
polishing. Lateral political behaviors include exchanging favors, offering help, and
organizing coalitions.
Finally, political behavior has a legitimate–illegitimate dimension. Some political
behavior is common and acceptable, whereas some violates organizational norms. This
dimension invites the question: Is political behavior good or bad for organizations? Some-
times political behavior is good for the organization and sometimes it is not.23 See Table
13.3, in which the three shaded boxes include political behaviors and the unshaded box
includes nonpolitical behaviors, and which suggests which behaviors are functional and
dysfunctional for an organization.
Should you play politics? A major consideration is whether you consider playing pol-
itics to be ethical. Professor Debra Comer has provided this set of guidelines for
determining whether a particular political behavior is personally appropriate for an
 First, is the act of engaging in this political behavior in line with your personal beliefs,
values, and style? Do you consider it be ethical?
 Second, what outcomes is this behavior likely to produce? For instance, can you exe-
cute it well? Is the behavior appropriate given your organization’s culture? How likely
is it to be rewarded in your organization’s culture? Will key players respond favorably
to the behavior? What is your relationship with these key players, and how will this
relationship affect their response?
 Third, is engaging in this behavior in line with your personal goals?
 Finally, are the likely outcomes of this behavior in line with organizational goals?
If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions, then playing politics—this time, at
least—is for you.

TABLE 13.3 Is Political Behavior Good or Bad for Organizations?

Are the Goals Sanctioned by the Organization?
Yes: The behavior is No: The behavior is
functional for the dysfunctional for
organization. the organization.
Are the means Yes It is not political behavior, It is not political
sanctioned by and it is functional for the behavior, and it is
the organization? organization. dysfunctional for
the organization.
Example: A performance Example: Workers
appraisal is conducted threaten to form a
according to company union in order to
guidelines. obtain a large raise.
No It is political behavior, It is political behavior
and it is functional for and it is dysfunctional
the organization. for the organization.
Example: A nonsanctioned Example: A network
team works off-site and of disgruntled
outside of work hours to employees secretly
initiate an innovation that is sabotages a brilliant
subsequently adopted by new manager.
the company.
Source: Based on B. T. Mayes and R. W. Allen, “Toward a Definition of Organizational Politics,” Academy of
Management Review 2 (4), 1977:672–678, 675.