POWER – Tactics, Targets





DEF: POWER TACTICS (PTs) are the ways a power-user (agent) translates power bases into specific actions.
In 1956 Norman H. Martin & John Howard Sims wrote an article about Power Tactics.
Beneath the general principles, attitudes & ideals of ‘human relations’ lie the actual tactics & day-to-day techniques by which executives achieve, maintain & exercise power. Whether in business, government, education, or the church – executives have power, and use it.
They maneuver & manipulate to get a job done &, in many cases, to strengthen & enhance their own position. Power & politics are concerned with relationships of control or of influence. ” (More….)

Power tactics used to push or prompt others into action can be grouped into :
a. Behavioral – Soft tactics take advantage of the relationship between the power-person & the target. Hard tactics are direct, forceful & harsh, relying on concrete outcomes
b. Rational – make use of reasoning, logic & objective judgment (bargaining, persuasion), whereas non-rational tactics rely on emotionalism & subjectivity (evasion, put-downs)
c. Structural – exploit the relationship between individual roles & positions. Bilateral tactics (collaboration, negotiation) involve reciprocity from both the influencer & the target. Unilateral tactics are used without any participation on the part of the target.

Power involves the ability of one party – the “agent”, to influence another party – the “target”, and sometimes the agent is a group or org. rather than an individual. Influence can be over a single target person or over many, but the agent’s target can also be over things or events, attitudes & behaviors

People tend to vary in their use of power tactics according to who they are trying to influence & based on the group situation. EXP: Interpersonally oriented people tend to use soft tactics, and extroverts employ a greater variety of tactics than do introverts. Studies have shown that men tend to use bilateral & direct tactics, whereas women tend to use unilateral & indirect tactics. In the face of resistance, people are more likely to shift from soft to hard tactics to achieve their aims.

TARGETS : Power involves a reciprocal relationship between the agent (Ag) & the target (T) . This can be boss & worker, parent & child, advertiser & consumer….  teacher & class, minister & congregation, President & the Nation…..
TARGET AUDIENCE – a group of people who share certain characteristics such as ethnicity, values or lifestyle

The effectiveness of power tactics (PTs) will depend on how easily influenced the target is, which will depend on their :
a. Age – susceptibility to influence is strong in young children up to about 8 or 9, then decreases with age until adolescence, when it levels off
b. Culture – characteristics of the target’s culture affect their influenceability. EXP: people from an authoritarian culture are highly susceptible to influence, & vice-versa.

c. Dependency – how strongly the T needs what the Ag has. If the dependency is high, power influence will be high, or vice-versa.
d. Gender – as society’s views of the role of women are changing, there is less of a distinction by gender of influenceability

e. Intelligence – it’s been observed that more intelligent people are less susceptible to influence generated by Positional Power
f. Personality – research studies show a relationship between personality & influenceability. EXP: people who cannot tolerate ambiguity or who are highly anxious are more susceptible

g. Uncertainty – when the Agent is unsure about how appropriate or correct their actions are – it can determine their ability to influence their target about those same actions. Research: the more uncertain someone (T) is about the ‘legitimacy’ of a behavior, the more likely they’re influenced to change that behavior.

The CHOICE & USEFULNESS of PTs is influenced BY:
✫ Culture of the org., which affects user’s choice of tactic
✫ Country-specific culture – local values favor certain PTs over others
✫ Relative power of the tactic user – some tactics work better when applied downward, others are better upward
✫ How the request is taken – is it consistent with the target’s values?
✫ Type of request connected to the PT – is it legitimate?
✫ Sequencing of tactics – softer —-> harder work best
✫ Skillful use of whichever tactic is chosen

NEXT: POWER Characteristics

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