Power. The word itself carries a reputation with it. Is power a bad thing, is it true that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely? Or rather, does it depend on the type of power used.
By definition, power is one’s ability to exert influence over other people’s actions, more specifically, to get people to do what you want them to do.
Initially, this definition does sound a little malicious, manipulative, but we should be acknowledging how prominent power is in the world around us, with or without our knowledge, how it is used on us, and how we use it on others.
Vladimir Putin has been named the most powerful person of 2017. It may come as a surprise, probably a disappointment to many people. Nevertheless, he has been named the most powerful person because he is the best at making others do what he wants them to do, mostly coercively: by threatening dissidents. The most important person in the world is a politician, but power is not just political- it is a universal phenomenon, present in all kinds of interactive human environments, especially the workplace. Sure, Putin’s consolidation of power coercively seems to be a political power play, but maybe you’ve had a boss who uses threats to makes sure things get done? Or maybe you’ve seen coworkers bullying subordinates to push them to do a job? Maybe you’ve even found yourself talking to a subordinate more harshly because you feared the task wouldn’t be completed otherwise? If you haven’t, it’s likely that you’ll encounter a similar situation at some point, but so far you’ve been surrounded by positive power types.
First, we’ll briefly overview the two typological models of power, and differentiate among the different types on this basis. It’s helpful to understand the different types of power to better comprehend your current powers, your potential powers and success, others’ power and whether it should be challenged. Then, we’ll apply the different power types to the FLIGBY computer game.
Two Models of Power Types
In 1961 Etzioni presented us with the first model, a simple one, differentiating between three types of power: coercive, remunerative (utilitarian), and normative.
Coercive power relies on using threats (of demotion) or force against employees, which usually only leads to short term power, but certain authorities have successfully abused it to attain long lasting power.
Secondly, remunerative power is based on offering extrinsic rewards to members in exchange for their participation and loyalty, also usually only providing short term power.
Finally, normative power is the best type of power in establishing a successful, and healthy organization, as it’s based on actually acquiring the members’ respect for and devotion to the organization. This model provided the basis for understanding power types, but it was too simplistic and disregarded the large role of personality in power.
Legitimate power is based on a person’s position and their ability to make others comply on that basis, though this has its limitations because the person only has power in the area where they are positioned.
In addition, referent power comes from genuinely liking someone and therefore doing what they want from you. Finally, expert power comes from a person’s skill or knowledge in an area, which is why people feel compelled to comply.
Both models indicate that the different types of powers vary in their efficacy- the least effective one is coercive, while the most effective is a genuine dedication to the leader and organization- normative, expert, referent. Why is it then that the most powerful person on earth has exercised coercive power and gotten away with it successfully? …
Types of power in FLIGBY
We’ll consider each character in FLIGBY and what types of power they use with their subordinates:
- Alex Davenport: Mostly expert power due to his expertise in winemaking, also legitimate power for his position as chief winemaker.
- Chris Strictland: Legitimate and expert power, respectively for his position in the hierarchy and knowledge about viticulture.
- Ellen McMason: A special case because uses different power types according to personality- typically has referent power for her personality, but with Rebecca, she had only legitimate power.
- Jen Goodwin: Doesn’t have subordinates, but if she did would probably use expert power.
- Joe Salieri: Expert and referent power, for putting together a brilliant campaign and getting along with people well.
- Larry Turul: Has no subordinate and is rarely taken seriously, but if he were he would use expert power for his knowledge in viticulture and winemaking.
- Rebecca Saber: When Rebecca becomes Ellen’s supervisor she uses coercive power over her, bashing her hoping she will resign.
As GM, this is how I personally would use power with each member of Turul Winery, how would you use your power?
- Alex Davenport: Mostly referent, some legitimate, little reward
- Chris Strictland: Legitimate, reward, referent
- Ellen McMason: reward, expert, referent
- Jen Goodwin: reward, referent, legitimate
- Joe Salieri: referent, coercive
- Larry Turul: referent, reward
- Rebecca Saber: coercive, referent, legitimate