How Supervisors and Nonsupervisors Use Power
Much of our thinking about power is in formal organizational authority terms-- that is, power based on superior hierarchical position. There is a large body of information to guide supervisors in their use of authority (power). There is much less information available, especially in applied terms, about how nonsupervisors exercise power. This research confirms that nonsupervisors as well as supervisors routinely drain energy in power-use behavior. They typically rely on several power forms including, but certainly not limited to, authority power.
Experience confirms that nearly all organization members--supervisors and all others--use authority, as well as the other forms of power. These other forms (e.g., force, manipulation, persuasion, threat--promise, and influence) can be useful ways of controlling coworkers where formal authority alone will not suffice. Targets of power use do not always recognize or understand the formal authority held by the supervisor. And, while they may recognize it in one situation, they may not in another. Also, the formal and informal sanctions the superior can impose in a situation may not be important to the subordinate. In this situation it dilutes any real impact formal authority may have. One conditioning factor in power relations between supervisors and nonsupervisors may lie in these kinds of perceptions by nonsupervisors. Another important factor is the impact of nonsupervisor power resources on the relationship.
While often at a disadvantage in relative formal authority held when compared with supervisors, nonsupervisors hold considerable advantage in the more personal forms of power. Mechanic's ( 1962) work suggests that nonsupervisors rely