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The Bases of Power and Dependency Theory

As we know, there are five bases of power according to French and Raven (1960). They identified coercive power, reward power, legitimate power, referent power, and expert power as such. These five are very useful in detecting how a person, either as an employer or as an employee, gains his or her power.

In the given situation, there are three types of the employee at Corporation A based on how they get power and how they use it. They may or may not know the particular bases of power they are employing. But we, as an observer of the situation could possibly determine. Perhaps, it is essential to identify the three employees one by one and the bases of power observable and undoubtedly present to them.

Employee 1 works in a marketing department for 12 years and mastered to get the superior rating and the bonus at the year-end evaluation of the company. The company exercises the “reward power.” Employee 1 is able to get what he wants in the company, the superior rating and the large bonus in that case, through the reward system of Corporation A. As we all know, in Psychology, the reward principle is one very effective technique to get the desired result. As stated in the situation, the marketing manager encourages employees to work beyond the requisite 40 hours a week by reminding them of the yearly bonus for receiving a superior rating on their next evaluation. The company is eager that the employees should double their labor. In return, Employee 1 needs the company’s reward in order to fulfill his dream vacation.

Reward power intends to use beneficial things for the target. It ranges from monetary compensation to material benefits such as free trip, gadget, and the like. However, it can also be intangible rewards like one-minute praise, good words and even a simple tap at employees’ back. The author of the five bases of power cited a problem on reward power that the employee may divert his attention not on the quality of the job but on the quantity of what he can get whatever quality he delivered for the job.

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Employee 2 is in the Accounting Department of Corporation A working as the one and only certified public accountant (CPA). It is indeed evident in the said employee that he is governed by his expertise. He was approved to work for a compressed workweek by the manager. This is due to the fact that he is the only one who can prepare the company’s financial statements. If the manager will not allow him, there is a tendency for Employee 2 to quit the job. This in return will be a dilemma for the corporation. Thus, we can tell that through the employee’s expertise, he is allowed for a tighter but fewer work schedules. He can do the job solely in the company so he is trusted and given advantages according to his will.

Expert power refers to the use of unquestionable capability of a person to drive things in his side which is by high level of competency and knowledge or highly specialized set of skills. Like reward power, it has a weak point. According to the authors, “expertise diminishes as knowledge is shared.” How is that so? The employer being in command because of his expertise cannot turn away the fact that he must share what he knows in order for the employee to be directed towards work. To give the instructions, the employer might set examples of his previous work or give tips in doing a particular task. In that case, he is sharing his knowledge. Therefore, his knowledge is being transferred to the employee who receives the task. As time goes by, the employee could possibly learn what his employer knows until they can meet in the same level of profession or understanding. The respect of the employee for the superiority of the employer’s expertise diminishes. However, it will always depend on the situation. Like in the scenario, it is the employee over the employer who commands his power.

Employee 3 who is quite new and fresh in terms of work is also in Corporation A but in the sales department. Compared to his co-workers who stayed there for long and gathered a lot of experiences, Employee 3 is serving the company for a little over a year. However, his short-term work stay in the company does not hinder him to be valued by his co-workers and the manager. As a matter of fact, he is very much appreciated. We lead to discover that he employs the “referent power.” Without too much work exposure or high level of competency, he drives his goal in favor of him. As stated in the situation, he is very charismatic and positive. Moreover, people seem to be naturally drawn to his personality. In this case, we can conclude that his credibility is due to his personality’s popularity. He is said to be a winsome person, a criterion that lead to other’s approval and acceptance. Like what had happened to the scenario, the entire department was excited about the new program and eager to work on the project pitched by the admirable Employee 3.

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Referent power is aimed at showing one’s good attitude toward others and toward work to gain favorable response in case he suggests or delivers his opinion. This power can express a lot of influence to other people because they look up at a person as role model. He is being admired and liked by many. Therefore, he can lead the team because of celebrity status.

Aside from these three bases of power exercised in the situations are legitimate and coercive powers. Let us discuss each. Legitimate power refers to the authority of the manager over the employee. He uses his right to be in-command over his employee. This power, incorporate setting, depends on the position of the person in the organizational hierarchy. The higher the position, the greater is the power. On the other hand, coercive power pertains to the ability of a manager to use punishment in order to be followed by his subordinates. It is negative power in a way that it creates short-term compliance and future worse behavior from the follower or employee.

From the three situations at Corporation A, relationship between dependency and power can be derived. The following facts are according to Emerson (1962). “The basis of power is dependency. A depends on B if A has goals and needs that B can fulfill. For example, an employee depends on her company for a paycheck. Similarly, a company depends on its employees for labor, skills and brains.”

There is a mutual relationship between A and B. They gain power because they depend on each other. Both of them supply the necessary demand of each other. Employee 2 has his expertise that can supply the demand of the corporation, the reason why the manager allowed him to shorten his workload. If one has the knowledge and skill, others will depend on him giving him the so-called “power.”