Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Power crazy

I'm busy proofreading a business book entitled Getting Things Done in Business. (I plan to publish it shortly as an e-book, along with Putting it Across, about business communication. They'll be the first in my new series of business e-books.) Earlier I was reading through some information on power and it struck me how often I use power in my fiction writing — coupled, of course, with conflict, which is the next topic covered in the book. Anyway, I thought some of you might find it interesting, so here it is:

We tend not to think about it — or even to like to think about it — but all relationships are power-based. Good relationships arguably have power in balance, and we operate most of the time from a standpoint of equality or neutrality. When something happens to upset the status quo, however, power is likely to surface as an issue and be used as a lever.

Types of power
Working in the 1950s, the research of sociologists French and Raven identified five bases of power:

Reward power:
the ability to reward or offer benefit to someone in exchange for the desired behaviour;

Coercive power:
the ability to punish unacceptable behaviour;

Legitimate power:
the right to demand that certain behaviours be either demonstrated or avoided based on legitimate authority (a variation is information power, based on a person's ability to control availability and accuracy of information);

Referent power: power awarded by admirers; and,

Expert power: power awarded on the basis of recognised expertise or specialist knowledge.

Most relationships have more than one type of power. Your boss has legitimate power by virtue of his position. He has reward power and coercive power, which he can use in a 'carrot and stick' way to influence behaviour. He may also be awarded expert and/or referent power, but so might a member of your staff, as these aren't dependent upon hierarchical position.

Interesting stuff — or at least I think so, anyway!


  1. One thing for sure that's needed is a book about communication in business. I work in the communications field and it's one of the WORST businesses for communicating properly! Good luck with the books.

  2. The least connected place I have worked in recent years was a media company ... makes you wonder! :)