There are five bases of power that may be used in a professional environment. Referent power, coercive power, legitimate power, reward power and expert power. Each one of these different types of power is used in different ways to reach the same result. Some forms of power are personal and some are formal. In my professional career I have used at least three of these types of power. Referent power is considered a personal power. A person that is affected by this type of power is an individual who can identify with the power holder.
The individual that posses the referent power has a desirable resource or personal trait. An example of this type of power is when someone has admiration for another person, or when he or she wants to be like them. Usually, the person that has the referent power is charming and likable and they have an emotional effect on the other person. Sport icons most often have reverent power. Companies use well known popular individuals to promote their products because they are likable and people admire them.
Another form of personal power is expert power. Expert power is when someone has a special skill or knowledge about something. They are an expert in his or her field. I have been a licensed nail technician in the state of Illinois for over five years. This type of skill would be considered expert power. Clients come to me because they do not know how to perform a certain service themselves. They rely on me to be an expert in the service that I am providing; therefore I have expert power over them.
This same type of power would be consistent for doctor, dentists, and electricians and so on. Any type of profession that needs a certification or a license to perform a job, would allow the owner of the license or certificate to have expert power. Coercive power is a form of formal power. This happens when a person withholds key information or makes another individual dependent on them because of fear. This type of power can happen in the workplace, usually a boss, supervisor, or even a coworker can posses this type of power.
An example of coercive power would be if a boss or supervisor tells an employee to do something and if it is not done that they will be fired or face severe consequences. I have used coercive power when dealing with associate’s poor attendance at work. When someone calls in and they are consistently absent or late, I will tell them that if they do not show up for his or her schedule shift they will be terminated. I have also used this type of power in my personal life. My kids know that if there is something that I have asked them to do and they have not done it that there will be consequences.
Reward power is also a formal power and is just the opposite of coercive power. A person with reward power wants another individual to comply with his or her wishes by offering some type of benefit. This type of power can consist of offering positive benefits for doing what was asked. Such benefits would include a reward, a bonus, recognition, a raise, or promotion. Many organizations are ran with a reward type program in place. If sales are met that there is a bonus given; if certain work is done then there will be an individual that is promoted.
At my place of employment there is a point system. Once a year I am graded and based on my performance I receive a bonus and a raise, this would be considered reward power. My company knows that if I want to receive these benefits that I will do what is necessary. The last base of power is legitimate power which is also a formal power. Legitimate power is when someone uses formal authority to use and control organizational resources. People that are underneath them listen because they have authority.
I have used this type of power as well. I think this type of power is used by most management personnel in one way or another. When you have a team that work for you, they will listen just because you are the boss. They will do what you ask because you have authority. I believe that this type of power is often the one most abused. The five bases of power, whether they are personal or formal are very important in the corporate world. But, they can also be very effective to maintain a household or small business.