Theories of Organizational Power

Several theories have emerged on organizational power. These theories of organizational power are discussed below:

  1. Power dependence theory
  2. Social exchange theory
  3. Strategic contingency theory
  4. Critical Contingencies Model
  5. Mintzberg’s theory

All of these four theories are discussed in the following paragraphs:

Theories of organizational power

1. Power Dependence Theory

This theory has been developed by Richard Emerson. According to this theory, power is inherent in any social relationship in which one person is dependent on others.

This dependence is directly proportional to one’s motivational investment in the goals motivated by another. Sometimes this dependence is inversely proportional to the availability of those goals.

We can explain in other words that if a person has something we want badly and we cannot get if any other place, but that person has power over us.

The main components of this theory are social between two parties and resources (commodities, goals, rewards, etc.) which are controlled by one parity and directed by another.

2. Social Exchange Theory

The social exchange theory has been developed by French and Raven. This theory states that what goes on between persons is the outcome of the exchange of social commodities. These commodities include:

  • Love  
  • Hate  
  • Respect  
  • Power  
  • Influence  
  • Information  
  • Praise
  • Blame  
  • Attraction  
  • Rejection and so forth.

In the case of an exchange relationship when what we receive others are equivalent to or in excess of what we must give to others. When the net balance for us is positive, we will continue the exchange relationship otherwise we will terminate the exchange relationship, social interaction represents an exchange of social goods and services.

Theories of Organizational Power
Theories of Organizational Power

3. Strategic contingency Theory

Salancik and Pfeffer proposed this theory of organizational power. This theory/model asserts that power is an organization that accrues to the subunits (individuals, units, departments, etc.). These sources include:

  • Control of Resource
  • Control of technical skill
  • Control of a body of knowledge
  • Legal prerogatives and
  • Access to powerful people

If all these conditions favor and sources are available, power can be used properly.

4. Critical Contingencies Model

This model of power has been discussed by D.J Hickson and his associated C.R. Hennings, C.A. Lee, R.H. Scheck, and J.M. Pennings. According to this model, three contingency factors can help to gain intergroup power.

It is most important for solving organizational problems. The problems created from environmental uncertainties may be solved by using this power.

This theory supports the notion that those who have something highly valued by others might have power. This type of power is considered something as special expertise that is needed for organizational survival.

5. Mintzberg’s Theory

Henry Mintzberg has designed this theory. This theory of power is built on the premise that organizational behavior is a power game in which various players (influences) wants to control company decisions and activities.

Three conditions are supposed to be fulfilled for the exercise of power. These conditions are:

  • Some sources or bases of power
  • The expenditure of energy
  • Politically skillful way
  • According to Mintzberg, five sources of power can help the executives to control the situation.

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1 thought on “Theories of Organizational Power”

  1. Hey there, You’ve written a fantastic content regarding organizational power. I am sure students will be benefited from this site.

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