Power at work

Power in the workplace


Power at work – 6 things you need to know

There are various theories about how “power” plays a role in the work place, having an understanding of these theories might put you in a better position use assertiveness.

Here are a few indicators that I find useful when the situation looks a little tricky.

POSITIONAL POWER – The obvious power play, this derives from the grade, rank or position that you hold, it’s Positional Powerabout status. Many senior managers in organisations use this deliberately to get things done, that probably should have been planned better. “I am your boss and I am telling you to do it!”, “your family commitments need to wait, this deadline must be achieved, just get it done”. We see this Power play in everyday life. Why do Policemen (It is only men) wear helmets? So that they stand out, so that their status / power is readily observed. Some police forces would only recruit above a certain height to exacerbate this. (lets not get drawn into how well you do the job or how you behave, just give us big ones, ho hum) In a court of law judges sit higher than everyone…uniforms in the military.. uniforms at work.

Expert PowerEXPERT POWER – “I am the recognised guru in this field, challenge me at your peril! For I am the font of all knowledge”. Unfortunately many people confuse expert with length of time served, therefore you can be perceived as the expert just because you have lived long enough. How many colleagues do you know that have 10 year’s experience, but actually only had 1 year, but repeated it 10 times!  Learning little in the past 9 years.

coersive powerCOERSIVE POWER – The ugly use of threats to get people to do things. Often, but not exclusively, comes with Positional Power, frequently an abuse linked to social power.

Moral PowerMORAL POWER – “We must do this because it is simply the right thing to do”. A hard power play to argue against. The usual failing of this is that the right thing to do is often based on subjective feelings or misdirection, rather than objective facts, trends etc. “The Government of Syria should not gas civilians”. Well of course not, a point that makes absolute sense. However why was it OK to kill and injure civilians using other methods? And why were we silent then?

Social PowerSOCIAL POWER – This is a bit more delicate. How do you discipline a colleague when he is having an affair with the chief executive? Some people deliberately use their patronage to behave badly towards others. Although I have recently seen an example where a competent hardworking colleague was getting some really poor work allocated to her. The reason? Daddy is a senior manager and her boss doesn’t like Daddy, because Daddy got the job the manager wanted.

Personal PowerPERSONAL POWER – Some people are just really charismatic, regardless of their position. I am sure that all of us recognise people at work, home or in the pub that influence enormously because of their personal power.

I hope that makes sense, just a taster. Now think about your tricky situation, what are the powers being used? How can you use that knowledge to your benefit WITHOUT VIOLATING THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS? Richard




To find out more contact Richard or Paula by email, follow us on twitter Richard or Paula. or call us on 08712 349 873. We would love to buy you a coffee.



#Change – recognise your team and yourself?


#Change – recognise your team and yourself

This blog sits well after the past two which were on PESTLE and Kotter’s 8 stage change model.

Take the time to have a read of these two blogs as they will help you understand why your coaching, training, assertiveness and motivation will need to be at its best to get people through change. I would like you to think of a simple grid. The “y” axis being a scale of positive to negative and the “x” axis being active (loud) to passive. This allows us to attach some traits to people dependant on where they fit into the grid. The diagram below gives the extremes of these behaviours a label.


 Let us explore these in a little detail

The champions of change

Behaviours found here; passion, people being really up for the change, really on message highly supportive, may be even a bit “gung ho!”. These colleagues may be relatively new to the team or business, they may also be quite junior. They like to run with ideas, crave innovation, can journey through the Fisher Transition Curve at the speed of the starship Enterprise.Change Champions

Management issues; They really want autonomy, but if you give that without checks and balances they are like a riderless horse, will go fast, but the direction is utterly random. The problem is if you sit on them and repress the flair they will head south on this diagram, quickly. Other colleagues can look at these guys as if they are some kind of teacher’s pet, they can be sickly sweet!

The Resistors

Resistors of changeBehaviours found here; Highly active dissent. Loud wailings and out pouring of anger, frequently in public places and forums. Guaranteed to hold a grudge, guaranteed to bring the same old things up at meetings. Likely to have felt personally aggrieved at a management decision many moons ago that they simply cannot move on from.

Management issues; These colleagues need to know, to be TOLD exactly what their behaviour does to them, to their team work, to the business. (see attitudes and Behaviour blog) These are the people that may once have been champions but were left alone to fail or wither on the vine. Clear communication, objectives and up-skilling are required here.

The Guardians of the past

Behaviours found here; Often these colleagues hide behind the veil of being the unchallengeable expert, Guardians of the pastfrequently there is an element of truth in this, but a thicker crust of just having lived longer than the rest of the workforce. They were once champions, felt slighted and became resistors. Whilst there they realised that shouting the odds and exposing yourself is career damaging and personally limiting. So now rather than make big bangs and damage things; they provide the materials to supply the resistors to do that, because the resistors have not yet learned! These guys are the ammunition makers, the subtle stirrers.

Management issues; Loads of organisations spend a massive amount of HR time, stress and valuable skills trying to deal with the guardians of the past. It is really hard to prove what they are doing, which makes intervention difficult. How about ignoring them? Deal with the resistors let the guardians rust! It saves a lot of heart ache and you can spend time above the line helping motivate the spectators and champions instead! A clever CEO we work with once publicly described a bus journey, the direction of organisational travel, and asked these people to get on OR get off the bus. The result? A catalyst for change!

The Spectators

Behaviours found here;The majority of the work force live here. They may not be motivated to take on the world, Spectatorsbut they have the inclination and ability to adapt and do a really good job. These workers will give you a good day’s work for a good day’s wage. Take money off the table, pay them enough, and they will get on with a professional job without moaning too much. They are motivated by family and things outside the work place, having the confidence that they are doing a good job.


Management issues; The spectators often get ignored. They feel happy out of the limelight so are often kept there when they should be praised, challenged and stretched. Some good participation with managers allows their professional abilities to be recognised and that allows them to get positive strokes. These are the people that need development training to upskill, to be more confident, to really feel valued and engaged. Ignoring the masses will eventually increase the Guardians of change numbers. Be Careful!


Reality Check

Take a look around your work place. How difficult is it to recognise these behaviours in others? Now take a deep breath, how would managers in your business categorise you?

Our consulting, mentor and trainer skills have helped more than 21,000 people with their performance and effectiveness.

Let us help you with your work challenges. Let us know you love our blog!

Email Paula or Richard

Follow us on Twitter Paula or Richard

Like us on Facebook



Motivation Part 3 – Your role in keeping your staff motivated!

Keeping your staff motivated

This blog is the third of three examining motivation in the work place. The first examined why we go to work? The second looked at what makes us work willingly and well and discussed Hertzberg’s work on true motivators, whilst this blog  examines what demotivates us in the workplace.

What irritates you at work is likely to be similar to things that irritate others.   In this blog I hope to show what these feelings are based on, and will refer to Hertzberg’s work again, and crucially examine how the manager can stop staff  feeling this way.

Keeping your staff motivated – Understanding what makes them unwell.

My favourite analogy of Hertzberg’s “Hygiene Factors” is as follows: Picture a small isolated town in a warm area. The local authority have a sewerage plant to cater for the needs of the townsfolk. When it works the townsfolk pay it absolutely no attention, they just flush the loo. They remain healthy because there is no chance of contamination from the sewerage works. If the local authority spend millions on the works, new bells and whistles etc, the population DON’T get any healthier, they just carry on flushing the loo! However if the works starts to malfunction the population can become really ill very quickly, and will complain.

That’s the crux of the concept behind the hygiene factors.  There are some things that need to be in place, at a satisfactory level, so that people don’t become demotivated. Hertzberg’s study suggests that these are listed in order of importance:

1 Policies and administration

2 Technical supervision

3 Relationsip with your boss

4 Work conditions

5 Salary

6 Relationships with your peers

Which of these can managers control? At first glance many say that the hygiene factors are “out of their control”, but a closer examination can quickly dispel this notion. Whilst most of us don’t set work based policies and administration procedures, as managers we CAN let others have access to these areas.  We can make staff aware of what is there to protect and enhance their prospects. For example, how many of your colleagues will know that there are paternity rights and what they really are?  How do your colleagues access these? There may be some information around certain polices or procedures around the workplace, much of it may be gossip, rather than based on fact, and this can alienate staff, before the true facts are known. Shouldn’t your job as the manager be to inform them of this information, or how they could access the relevant documents?

Technical supervision usually falls into two camps, either you am the expert, and feel you should know everything about the task, as the company employed you for the role! Or OMG the staff know more than I do, so I’ll have to blag it! Why not be honest and open?  Share your expertise and recognise innovation can come from innocent questions like “Why do we do this?”

Hertzberg identifies having a work based relationship with your boss, as being necessary and expected. This is not about pub time (but that can be good),  but it’s about being  listened to, being spoken to, being allowed to contribute. Even if the person is consistently wrong, killing of ideas, kills off business and can alienate staff.

Work conditions are important.  Mangers don’t usually paint the office, control air conditioning, or sort out car parking. However, the best ones will make sure that everyone knows why the office hasn’t been painted, why it’s a bit too warm and why the car park is flooded. Sharing information is vital to building up good working relationships, and for staff to see the manager as honest and trustworthy.

Similarly, mere mortals in companies  do not get to set the level of staff salary, BUT as a manager you can make sure that people are paid accurately, paid on time and that their holiday leave is booked properly etc.

If people are having a difficult time with their colleagues, but still trying to  do a good job, they need support.   How long can you really expect them to keep going if the office atmosphere is fraught with tension? Mangers must keep an eye on work place relationships. Ignore them at your peril.

The previous blog looked at true motivators, such as achieving at work, being recognised for your contribution, as well as experiencing a sense of personal growth, and it’s pretty obvious that a lack of these things are not great for staff motivation.  What brilliant managers need to think about, is what is within their sphere of influence?  What will keep the sewage plant working so that the population will stay well!  It may seem a thankless task, but it’s necessary.



Rights and assertion


As we mentioned in a previous blog you cannot be assertive without knowing what your rights are and knowing the rights of those you communicate with. It’s a pretty common thing to hear “I know my rights!” very popular in every school up and down the land and also in many work places. What are these rights?

Historical Rights and Assertion

We can look back 800 years to the first bill of rights and the signing of the Magna Carta or even a bit closer to 1998 and the Human Rights act. I suppose that if you felt you had your Human Rights violated there would be a legal route for you to seek redress. But we aren’t talking about those legal rights.

Choose a life context, the work place? The pub? The home?

Ask yourself what rights do you have, that might not be covered in law? For example at work you have the right to say “no”, and so does everyone else. You have the right to be adequately resourced to conduct your job. You have the right to work hard. You have the right to be managed. You have the right to manage.

Interestingly along with these rights come a couple of other things. Responsibilities and Consequences. So if you assert your right to say “no” at work you have a responsibility to do that in a way that does not violate the rights of others. You should also look at the consequences of your assertion. I have the right to say no, the responsibility to do it in an appropriate way, the consequences…… be sure you know them before you assert yourself, it puts you in a powerful position, regardless of your seniority. It might also allow you to select the right time, place and media for your rights and assertion.rights and assertion

Understanding this is central to influencing, communicating effectively and managing people. When those around you violate your rights you need to be clear about the violation, your responsibilities and the consequences, permitting yourself to be assertive and get good outcomes.

Frequently we see people misunderstanding and defaulting to the aggressive “just do it!” the submissive “yes”. Maybe it would be useful to explore what happens, classically people put up with the aggressive because it’s about power abuse, and people fail to recognise the application of power. Would it be really helpful to understand, recognise and deal with the 6 most common power plays?


Power coming soon……..