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5 Sources of Power

In: People

Submitted By SmilingSophie
Words 651
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Now it’s time to explore these themes in greater depth. This week we will be discussing power, next week rights, and in two weeks interests.
Positional Power * This type of power is the kind that people have because of the position that they hold (police officer, supervisor, manager, parent…). This person has a certain power over another person by virtue of the authority given to the position he/she holds. * One’s response to this type of power is not so much to the person as it is to the position. * This kind of power may be created by legislation (as with the police) or by contract (such as an employment contract).
Personality Power * This type of power comes from a person’s personality. Included in this type of power are such traits as charisma, skills and abilities, expertise, attractiveness, likability, persuasiveness… * While personality power can be used well and positively, an unhealthy extreme form of personality power is bullying. A person with a reputation as a bully need not always display bullying behaviour, as the individual’s reputation can be enough to lead others to endorse the power and do as the bully wishes.
Identity Power * A person’s “location” in various identity hierarchies also provides power resources. We receive identity power by virtue of our gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, social class, age, level of education, etc. * This form of power can be subtle or overt. Because this form of power is often embedded into our societal structure, we may not always recognize when this form of power is asserting itself.
Power in numbers * There is power in numbers. Power structures can be upset, challenged or balanced by those without positions of power when these people work together. * A tangible example of this is seen in the union environment. In these cases, the power claimed by management is held in check by the power claimed by union members. This latter group has power by virtue of its numbers. Most companies are forced to shut their doors when the union members strike.
Power as Relational * Relational power assumes that nobody can have power over you unless you have in some way given this person this power (see Joseph Folger, Marshall Poole, and Randall Stutman, in Working Through Conflict). Said in another way, power is not so much a possession of individuals as it is a possession of the group. Think of it this way: In any relationship there exists a fixed amount of power between the individuals in this relationship. How much power is “owned” by each of the parties depends on how much power these parties have given one another. * For example, when you sign a contract to work a given set of hours under the leadership of a supervisor, you have just given a certain amount of power to that supervisor to exercise “over” you. This is not bad. We give each other power in our lives this way all the time. You are not without power in this situation, however. If you leave the workplace, you have just taken that power back from the supervisor as he/she no longer has that power over you. * Likewise, one could argue that teenagers in conflict with their parents are taking back some of the power their parents naturally had over them from the time they were born. The conflict in this case emerges from renegotiation of power between the parties. * In a third example, if in your social group there is one person who is a great party planner and you depend on him/her to get things organized, you have given that person social or personality power. If you and your friends decide you no longer like the kind of parties this person has been planning and you no longer go along with this person’s ideas, you have revoked your “endorsement” of this power. This person’s personality power will now be weakened.

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