Correlates of the Bases of Power and the Big Five Personality Traits: An Empirical Investigation

By Karkoulian, Silva; Messarra, Leila et al. | Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Correlates of the Bases of Power and the Big Five Personality Traits: An Empirical Investigation


Karkoulian, Silva, Messarra, Leila, Sidani, Mohamad, Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict


INTRODUCTION

Kotter (1977, p.125) stated that "A misunderstanding is becoming increasingly burdensome because in today's large and complex organizations the effective performance of most managerial jobs requires one to be skilled at the acquisition and use of power".

Regardless of the organization type, one of the basic roles of an organization is to transmit knowledge, opportunities, and regulations of work from a manager to a subordinate employee (Koslowsky and Stashevsky, 2005). The cost of such influence process has been explored in research and was defined as "power" (Koslowsky and Stashevsky, 2005). Power is viewed as a precious asset that many businesses try to acquire (Erkutlu and Chafra, 2006) and is thought to have an effect on managements' actions and employees' reactions (Tjosvold and Sun, 2005).

When a leader exercises power, it could lead to many possible outcomes depending on the bases of power used, the method in which it was applied, and both the leader and the subordinate's individual characteristics (e.g. personality traits) (Moorhead & Griffin, 1998). Thus, power within an organization to a great extent, is dependent on employees' behaviors and attitudes. Power resides in the individual and is independent of that individual's position (Shermerhorn, et. al., 2004).

On the other hand, personality traits are viewed as significant and powerful variables, and are perceived as the most central psychological tools for directing and controlling behavior (Heinstrom, 2003).

According to Kipnis and Schmidt (1988) the effective use of power by managers leads to positive outcomes. However, power within managerial contexts can be positive i.e. enabling change to take place, or negative causing change or advancement to be blocked. Power can then be explained by the manager's ability to manipulate the feelings, purposes, values, and behaviors of subordinates (French and Raven, 1959). It is then imperative that we understand how personality traits influence the nature of power a person observes and uses.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Power

Power by definition, is the capacity to apply influence over others. It is the ability to get someone to do what you want done or the ability to make things happen in the way you want them to happen (Shermerhorn, et. al., 2004; Pfeffer, 1992). However, power is not a tool for altering others' attitudes and behaviors if they are not able and willing.

Power is a force that can induce change in the behavior of others. As a result, organizational development and innovation often requires obtaining the power necessary to induce change or to overcome resistance (Erkutlu and Chafra, 2006).

An individual's power in the organization originates from interpersonal bases (position, qualities, and expertise), and/or structural and situational bases (i.e. control over resources, formal authority, and control over information) (French & Raven, 1959; Kanter, 1982; Kotter, 1977). French & Raven (1959) proposed five different bases of power: reward, coercive, expert, legitimate, and referent. Reward power originates from the individual's ability to determine who will receive the rewards valued by others (tangible benefits or status symbols) and to eliminate unpleasant sanctions that is negative reinforcement (Robbins and Judge, 2008; McShane and Glinow, 2005; Erkutlu and Chafra, 2006). Its bases can be traced to the Expectancy Theory of Motivation i.e. a direct relation exists between performance and rewards. Coercive power, stems from the expectation of punishment (Robbins and Judge, 2008), physically or psychologically, (Kreitner and Kinicki, 2004) if the individual does not act in accordance with given requirements, desires or demands.

On the other hand, legitimate power is derived from an individual's structural position that gives him/her the right to command obedience. However, it is restricted to the extent that the person who controls power is perceived as being legitimate (McShane and Glinow, 2005; Chuck, 2009). …

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