Organizational Politics, Justice, and Support: Managing the Social Climate of the Workplace

By Russell S. Cropanzano; K. Michele Kacmar | Go to book overview

7

The Use and Abuse of Power:
Justice as Social Control

Robert J. Bies and Thomas M. Tripp

For most people, power is an evil force in organizations--a force that can only compromise, if not corrupt, individual integrity and cooperative work relationships. Such a view, while held by many, ignores the social reality that organizations cannot function effectively without the use of power ( Pfeffer, 1992). Indeed, the question should not be how can we rid organizations of power and politics, for that is a naive, cynical, and impractical view; but rather, how can we limit the abuse of power and destructive aspects of political activity. An answer to that question, we argue, can be fruitfully explored in an analysis of the social dynamics of justice in organizations.

This chapter advances the argument that justice in organizations is a social phenomenon, not merely a psychological judgment as conceptualized by current theory and research ( Bies, 1987; Greenberg, 1990b). Further, concerns about justice act as a social "check and balance" on the use and abuse of power. Our analysis begins with the premise that justice is, in part, defined by the rules and social norms in organizations governing (1) how outcomes should be allocated, (2) the procedures that should be used for making decisions, and (3) how people should be treated interpersonally. It is in this social and normative context that the use of power can be judged to be an abuse of power.


THE NORMATIVE AND ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXT
OF POWER: A SOCIAL CONTRACT PERSPECTIVE

The overriding normative context that governs the existence and use of power in the organization is the social contract ( Bies & Tripp, forthcoming;

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