Saturday, August 13, 2011

Boss should use powers wisely

Question: My boss continuously manages his subordinates through carrots and sticks. He routinely threatens employees' jobs and also dangles perks to motivate. Otherwise, he is incompetent in providing the needed resources, guidance or expertise in leading us to success. What do you have to say?

- Sabina R., Phoenix

Answer: There are essentially six main powers vested in a boss. An appropriate mix of these powers and using the correct power for a given situation is a managerial skill learned and perfected through experience. Your boss needs training in using these powers more effectively.

Here are the powers:

Legitimate Power: This is the power granted to bosses by their position. They can approve resources, expenses and projects, and assign priorities. Proper use of this power requires knowledge of the business, the technological capabilities, the competitive environment and the staff's capabilities. Incompetent managers will misappropriate this power and decide by their bias, closeness to employees, etc.

Connection Power: Managers often have more connections to the important people in the company or the industry. They can help their employees by making appropriate use of this power. The bosses who continuously drop a lot of high-level names are misusing this power by trying to influence others.

Expert Power: This is the power enjoyed by a boss who is an expert in a given field. Managers in technology fields often enjoy this power. Subordinates want to work for these people because of their expertise.

Referent Power: This a power enjoyed by a boss who is likeable. People want to work for this boss because he or she is nice to work for. Likeability is often a good power, but any power taken to an extreme can be bad. If the boss is becoming likeable because he or she does not deal with poor performers and lets everyone slide while the projects are failing, he or she may be a nice boss but a poor performer.

Power of Reward: A boss has the power to reward the employees with bonuses, raises, promotions, perks or praise. Excessive use of this power is considered negative and seems to be the case with your boss.

Power of Punishment: A boss has the power to punish, demote, withhold merit raises from or fire an employee. Judicious use of such power with non-performers is a necessity, but managing by using such threats, as in your boss's case, is a misuse of the power.

The best managers use a combination of all six powers in moderation. Excessive use of any one power is not good. And removing any of the powers from a manager's toolbox would compromise his or her management ability. I have been learning and practicing the appropriate use of these powers all through my business career.

Your boss can learn and can get better. But motivating or requiring him to get help is a difficult task. Discreetly slip this column under his door.

One more caution - don't try these powers at home with your spouse or kids. It does not work.

by Steve Sanghi - Aug. 7, 2011 12:00 AM

Boss should use powers wisely

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