Coercive Reward Legitimate Referent And Expert Power

Coercive power is based on the idea of coercion. This is forcing someone to do something that they would prefer not to do. The ultimate goal of this power style is compliance. Repercussions are often used to demonstrate what will happen if the person does not comply. Other forms of power can be used in a coercive way, as an example, when a reward or incentive is withheld because the person did not comply. This can also occur with referent power if it is used to threaten the person with making them a social outcast. The coercive power has been shown to be related to punitive behaviors that may be beyond the expectations of a normal function. But coercion has also been positively related to general punitive behavior and negatively associated with contingent reward behavior. The coercive power can lead to unhealthy behavior and job dissatisfaction. Coercive leaders rely on threats in their leadership style to attempt to achieve compliance. Quite often they involve threats that someone will be fired or demoted.

Reward power means having the ability to manage other things the person wants, or to eliminate or decrease things the person does not want. For supervisors in an organizational framework, is the perceived ability to present his subordinates with the results that are valued positively.

This type of power is based on the idea that in our society we are more likely to do things and do them well, when we are getting something out of it. The most popular are offering raises, promotions, and simple compliments. The problem with this approach is that when you exhaust the available rewards, or the rewards do not have enough perceived value to others, the reward power of the person utilizing this type of power is weakened or possibly eliminate. One of the issues with the use of rewards is that they often have to be bigger each time they are used in order to attempt to have the same level of motivational impact. Even then, if the rewards are frequently used for motivation, people tend to become used to the reward and it loses its effectiveness. An example of the use of reward power is demonstrated in the provided scenario.

Employee 1 has been working in the marketing departing of the corporation for 12 years. The marketing department has a standing incentive whereby employees who earn a superior rating in their annual performance review receive a large bonus at the end of the year. Employee 1, on a regular basis, works weekend and often stays late to ensure that the work is complete and accurate. The marketing manager regularly encourages employees to put in extra work hours each week and reminds them of the yearly bonus incentive. Employee 1 has already earmarked the use of this bonus for a well deserved vacation.

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The marketing manager is leveraging reward power in the fact that Employee 1 puts in extra effort to work towards receiving a superior rating on his next review. There is an extreme risk for Employee 1 under this approach. Unless coming into the office on weekends or staying late to ensure the work is complete and accurate is clearly defined in the performance evaluation criteria as the key performance indicator, Employee 1 could be disappointed if his performance evaluation does not result in the rewards he is expecting. If Employee 1 does not receive the bonus he has invested in, he may be unwilling or less motivated to put forth the extra effort going forward.

Legitimate power is power that is derived from a person’s position or place of authority in the organization. Reward and penalty of people that work for, or report to, this person is generally viewed as a legitimate part of this person’s official position. Management in most work organizations carry this level of expected reward and penalty capabilities. Legitimate power is typically based on a person’s role in the organization. People traditionally abide by the rules of the person they report to solely on the basis of their position or title rather than the particular person being viewed as a leader. This type of power can quickly erode with the loss of a job or demotion in the position. Therefore, this power is not considered strong enough to be the only way to influence and persuade others in the organization.

Referent power is holding the ability to manage one’s feelings of personal acceptance or personal approval. This type of power is built from the fact that the holder of the power is often admired as a role model. This power is often gained through admiration of the person or the person’s overall charm. The power derives from the person having an overall likability which leads people to strongly identify with them in one way or another. A person with this type of power often makes people around he or she feel good about themselves which gives this person with a lot of influence over them. The responsibility associated with this type of power is burdensome and this person can easily lose this power unless it is combined with other forms of power which can help stabilize this person’s power base. Celebrities and politicians often have this kind of power in our society but conversely they can often lose it rapidly if they fall from the public’s favor. Referent power is commonly seen in the political and military figures.

Employee 3 is employed in the sales department of the corporation. Employee 3 has only been employed with the company for little over a year, while most of the other sales employees have been with the company for three of more years. Employee 3 is liked by everyone on the sales team, is very charming and positive, and people are naturally drawn to him. During a recent sales meeting, Employee 3 presented a new program to increase sales. At the start, the other sales team members were unsure whether or not this plan would fit with the company culture. By the end of Employee 3’s sales pitch, the entire sales department was on board about the new program and anxious to get started. Despite his relatively short tenure with the company and his inexperience with being a team lead, Employee 3 was selected to lead the team on this project. This selection was due in part to the excitement and admiration Employee 3 received from his team members.

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Employee 3 is demonstrating referent power in the provided scenario. His likeability, charm and general magnetism draws others to him and he is gaining support and being positioned in a leadership role because of this ‘soft skill’ power.

The downside of this type of power being utilized is the fact that if Employee 3 does not have adequate skills to do the job. He could be seen as having all ‘style and not substance’ which could impact his likeability and position on the team.

Expert power is the ability to manage to another person’s information, knowledge or experience. Leaders who have this kind of power are often considered experts in their field, and people trust their ability to perform the specific tasks or functions. Same examples are doctors and lawyers, who are specialists in their disciplines. When someone is viewed as having expert knowledge in an organization, the people around he or she are more likely to trust this person and respect their opinions. When your experience is valued, so are your ideas and leadership.

Employee 2 is the only certified public accountant, CPS, in the accounting department at the company. Employee 2 was able to negotiate with the accounting manager, to work a four day work week. Employee 2 is the only person in this department allowed to work a shortened work week. The accounting manager agreed to this compressed work week because Employee 2 is the only employee who is qualified to prepare the financial statement of the company.

Expert power is demonstrated by Employee 2 in the provided scenario. Employee 2, because of his expertise in accounting, was able to leverage this experience and knowledge and use the expert power method, to gain extra benefits and receive a more favorable work week.

This type of power in this scenario could cause repercussions by causing animosity and ill feelings among Employee’s peers in the corporation.


The relationships between dependency and power are indentified in the components of the given scenario and discussed below.

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In the given scenario, the dependency level between Employee 1 and the marketing manager is very high. Employee 1 is dependent on the performance evaluation of the marketing manager and the marketing manager’s interpretation of the performance criteria. The bonus that Employee 1 is working for and investing is time in to achieve, is completely dependent on the marketing manager. In most performance evaluations, the evaluation is subjective based on the manager. Even if Employee 1 works hard and puts in extra effort, if the marketing manager determines the extra work is ‘expected’ and that Employee 1 only ‘meets requirements’ for the position, he will not receive the high ranking that is required to receive the bonus,

In the given scenario, the dependency level between Employee 2 and the accounting manager is high. Because of Employee 2’s expertise, he was able to manipulate the accounting manager to receive additional benefits in the corporation. The accounting manager is responsible for providing this power to Employee 2. Rather than simply leveraging the expertise of Employee 2 as a valuable member of the team, the accounting manager allowed this extra benefits situation to develop and provide Employee 2 with this power. A stringer leader would not have allowed this power to develop.

In the given scenario, the dependency level between Employee 3 and the other members of the sales team is low and very fragile. Employee 3 has been provided this power by the other team members based off ‘soft skills’ and not expertise or tangible skills. Because this power is not based on tactical skills, this power could be fleeting.

In conclusion, in terms of the relationship between dependency and power, the greater the dependency someone has on the person providing the power, the greater the power this person can have over the dependent person. When you posses anything that others require but that you alone control, you make them dependent on you and, therefore you gain power over them. Dependency then is inversely proportional to the alternative sources of supply. If something is plentiful, possession of it will not increase your power. If everyone is intelligent, intelligence gives no special advantage. Similarly among the superrich money is no longer power. But, as the old saying goes, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. If you can create a monopoly by controlling information prestige, or anything that others crave, they become dependent on you. Conversely the more that you can expand your options the less power you place in the hands of others. Dependency is increased when the resources you control are important, scarce, and non-substitutable. To create dependency, therefore the thing(s) you control must be perceived as being important.

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