Never, ever let individual power bring your team down

 Aug 20, 2014

We are all born alone, and sadly we often die alone. What’s interesting is that in between the two bookends of our life we spend the majority of it in teams. Family teams, school teams, study teams, sporting teams, and workplace teams. Within each of these teams, we have power, our other family members have power, and our team members have power. We all have power. To complicate matters further, we all have different types of power, and it is this area in the context of workplace teams and how un-managed individual power can lead to team conflict that I would like to discuss today. When power is equally balanced in a workplace team, it assures that every team member feels respected. This feeling of respect empowers members to make contributions to the team process. These contributions allow a team to accomplish its goals. Power can affect teams during any interaction members might have, but power is especially significant when a team is experiencing conflict. During conflict, the uses and abuses of power are most obvious. Types of power Your team members might possess any combination of these seven types of power:
  1. Charismatic power – is given to individuals who have attractive personalities. Such people become leaders because of the charm they possess. Charismatic power does not depend on any specialised knowledge or expertise.
  2. Expert power – is based on specific information or a skill a team member possesses. This might be based on academic background, experience, research, or certification. Whatever the expertise, it enables such people to influence the decisions of the team.
  3. Avoidance power – team members use avoidance power when they refuse to participate within a team. Team members who will not participate feel they have no power or nothing to gain from participation. Resentment often accompanies avoidance.
  4. Information/Interpersonal power – is given to a team member who has access to people or information that can be of use to the team. This access must be to resources that would otherwise be unavailable.
  5. Referent power – is based on the respect and admiration other group members hold for a team member. A member is viewed as having wisdom and goodwill gains credibility in the team and has the power to influence any team activities.
  6. Legitimate power – comes from the responsibilities a team member has in the team or from a formal position held outside the team. For instance, if a team member of the team holds a supervisory position outside the team, some members might be inclined to defer to that team member’s suggestions and ideas, regardless of the quality.
  7. Punishment and reward power – is given to a team member who has the ability to reward or punish other team members in some way. This power might come from a formal position the individual holds inside or outside the team setting. However, all team members have the power to the extent that they can praise or criticise other team members.
Influences and types of power Power can be used to the benefit or the detriment of a team as it works towards its goals. Some types of power are seldom if ever beneficial, while others often are. Charismatic power is beneficial when used to ensure that all members of the team are allowed to share their ideas. It is detrimental if it is used to take power from weaker members of the team. Expert power is only beneficial when used to help achieve team goals. It is detrimental when used to control the team or to achieve personal gain through the team’s decisions. People with expert power must keep the value of their expertise in perspective. Avoidance power never benefits a team, because it impedes the accomplishment of team goals. It can also lead to various types of negative conflict. People possessing referent, legitimate, or punishment and reward power benefit teams when they influence teams to focus on achieving goals. However, the ideas of members with these types of power are often given too much credit. This type of power can also be used to stifle dissent, which is usually detrimental. In summary, team members are responsible for keeping the power they have and other team members have in perspective. It is important that team members do not take and do not give more power than is deserved for the contributions they or other members provide. For example, team members who are less knowledgeable on a given subject often give a teammate with expert power too much control. Likewise, team members might give teammates with charismatic, referent, legitimate, or punishment and reward power more regard than their contribution is worth. Use this information to better manage your teams, develop them evenly, engage them evenly, treat them evenly and you will reduce negative conflict in your team significantly. To learn more about how to better manage the intricacies of your team, and how to resolve negative team conflict, take a look our Management and Leadership training programs. Until next time, keep positive, keep happy, and always be grateful.

How do your Excel skills stack up?   

Test Now  

About the Author:

Stan Thomas  

Stan has been working in a professional training capacity for over 15 years and possesses a wealth of knowledge in the areas of adult education gained through both formal study and practical training delivery both nationally and internationally. As the Professional Development Manager for New Horizons Melbourne, Stan is responsible for the delivery, quality control and enhancement of existing and new programs at New Horizons.

Read full bio
Back to top