Enforcement of Power in Organizations Managing Organisations Essay

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Enforcement of Power in Organizations

Managing Organisations - Critically analyse how the enforcement of power may or may not lead to organisational resistance, conflict and decline

Enforcement of power in organizations has led to conflicts in many organizations, due to employee resistance to power (Fiske and Depret, 1996). Managers in many organizations try to use coercion when ordering employees to perform their work (French Jr. et al., 1960). The different subunits within an organization need to work cohesively in order to achieve the organization's overall goal. Failure to do this result in organizational decline and conflicts arise between the different subunits. This paper will demonstrate that enforcement of power is a catalyst for organizational resistance and conflicts. The different elements that cause conflict in an organization have been analysed to demonstrate how they affect an organization. The arguments made in the paper will indicate that enforcement of power could lead to the decline of the organization.


Thompson (1956) researched the effects of uncertainty in military bureaucracy by conducting research on two U.S. Air Force wing commands that comprised of ground and flight crew personnel. The ground crew were central in ensuring the safety of the flight crew, and this gave them power over the flight crew. Working on the flight crews need for safety, the ground crews were able to exercise illegitimate power in a routine system (Thompson, 1956). The flight crew had greater formal authority, but their technical competency was incomparable to their need for safety. The pluralism theory overestimates the power of outside groups. The ground crews had power that is outside the organizational hierarchy, which allowed them to exercise power over the flight crews. The two groups had conflicting interests, but they shared interests in some way. The flight crews pursued their own interests of safety, but the ground crews enforced power over them due to this desire.

Thompson (1956) was demonstrating the effects that illegitimate power has on an organization. Using the pluralism theory, the researcher managed to demonstrate clearly that this theory does not focus on the effects of informal power. The power possessed by the ground crew made them enforce their authority over the flight crews, which would result in conflicts if the flight crew chose to resist. In any organization, when some employees have control over the uncertainty they use this power to discriminate and bully the other employees, which leads to resistance.

Lukes (1974) 3 faces of power start with decision-making, and he states that power does not use physical violence. The ground crew did not use any physical violence when they enforced power over the flight crews. The power exercised by the ground crew was behind the scenes. They did not come out and enforce their power in an observable manner, but rather they enforced barriers that ensured they had power over the flight crews. Compared to the Marxism theory, the three faces of power demonstrate that the ground crews exercised their power by determining the flight crews' safety. Their need for safety provided an avenue for the ground crews to influence the rules of the game. According to Foucault (1980), the organizational structure gave the ground crews power over the flight crews. The two teams were working together, and it was inevitable for the ground crews to have power over the flight crews. Foucault (1980) indicates that groups through team working possess power. Having some discourse in the system established by the military, the flight crew believed that the ground crews were responsible for their safety and this provided the ground crews with illegitimate power.

Power differences

Organizational conflicts will arise when the dependence of power is not mutual. The pluralism theory requires the sharing of power equally amongst the different organizational groups. Sharing power will ensure that each group's interests, within limits are catered for, and the group does not pursue its own interests. Power differences will lead to conflicting interests that will result in resistance and the organization's decline. Having a situation where a party needs another party's collaboration in order for them to accomplish their task will result in conflicts. One party will start treating the other party with hostility due to their relative power. The production line workers are dependent on the supervisors or inspectors for the approval of their work. The inspectors are not dependent on the workers since they have a different boss, and their own circle of friends. The potential of conflict increases as the production workers have to obey the inspectors.
Conflict will arise as the production workers will resent the inspectors and this could affect the overall production process. The supervisors used their power to dominate the production workers, and this lead to resentment and resistance. Conflicts will arise if the production workers began to display their resentment of the inspectors.

Power sharing will allow for interdependence and ensure that all workers have some bargaining power, which will reduce the potential for conflict. Interdependence provides for the introduction of organizational procedures in the management of loose coalitions within the organization. Too much interdependence could result in reversal of power from the higher status employees to the lower status employees (Ellemers et al., 1998). Resistance by the higher status employees is likely to occur, as they will not like taking orders from their juniors. The five bases of power indicate the power an individual possesses. The five bases of power are legitimate power, referent power, reward power, coercive power, and expert power. The production workers were unable to employ any of their individual power on the inspectors. This made them vulnerable to the inspectors who exercised their individual powers. This is according to French & Raven's five bases of power.

The 1984-1985 miners strike would have initially taken place in 1981 had the government not backed down on closing the pits. The government employed the Marxist theory to enforce power over the miners. Using the economic situation of the country and discovering the pits were not viable for the future, the government resulted in shutting down of the pits. The government used its political influence in making the decision. The government to rule over the miners, which resulted in the miners' strike, uses ideology/hegemony. The miners felt exploited by the government and this enforced their stand during the strike. Foucault (1980) concurs with the Marxist theory as he indicates that agents (capitalism) possess power. The government was capitalist and it enforced its power over the miners union. The public believed the government was correct and the information was true, which made them not question the decision of the government. If the miners union had not resisted, the scheduled shut down would have continued, and the remaining ones would have continued in operation.

At first the miners union had assumed that the government had backed down due to their strike threats, but the miners discovered later the government was unprepared to handle the strike consequences. When the government instituted the closing down of pits, it had enough coal to last Britain throughout the winter. The miners thought they had power over the government, but the government proved that it had the overall power, and had prepared itself for the strike. When the strike ended in 1985, there was no new agreement and the pits remained closed. The strike adversely affected the coal mining industry, which resulted in the rapid closure of pits over the next coming years. According to Haslam et al. (1997) the miner's union group was a basis for the emergence of stereotypes consensus for the mine workers.


Employees should be dependent of each in order to create a conducive working environment. Interdependence is what the pluralism theory pushes for in managing power. The distribution of power in an organization is vital for its success. With equal power, the different groups can negotiate and reach agreements easily. Negotiations provide for the opportunity to reduce conflicts and have the groups pushing for the organizational goals and not their individual interests. French Jr. And Raven (1959) posits the potential for conflict within an organization occurs when subunits are dependent upon each other in order to accomplish organizational goals.

Using the five bases of power, this is true, as the different groups will have individual power they employ in order to gain some favour from the other staff. Sales staffs are dependent on the production staff to deliver products on time. The production staffs are dependent on the sales staff to provide orders with adequate lead times. In case the sales staffs delay in the delivery of orders, the production workers will have to alter their production schedules to cater for the lead times provided. Any delay by the production staff will result in late delivery of products to the customers. The production staffs have to produce high quality products so the sales staff can maintain the customers' good will. There is interdependence of the two subunits and neither has overall power over the other. Each.....

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