Who Gets Power – and How They Hold on to It
The thesis of the article is that traditional political power helps organizations become aligned
with their realities, while other institutionalized forms of power buffer the organization from
reality (Salancik & Pfeffer, 2011).
Salancik and Pfeffer discuss the thesis in the opening of their article and go on explaining
it. Power resolves around scarce and critical activities (Salancik & Pfeffer, 2011) and the
strategic-contingencies theory corroborates this belief. The strategic-contingencies theory
implies that whatever the critical problems of a company are then the power and influence over
organizational decisions will be gained by the person or department most affected by the
problems. As in the words of Salancik and Pfeffer “power facilitates the organization’s adaption
to its environment- or its problems”.
In the article a study conducted looked at different departments within a university to determine
if those departments that brought in more resources that are critical, were more powerful than
those that brought in fewer resources. After the 18-month study it was determined that yes, the
departments that did bring in more of the critical resources had more power. Critical resource
criteria are argued for by the most powerful departments, thus those departments are able to
name “their functions as critical to the organization” (Salancik & Pfeffer, 2011) even when they
might not be critical.
Thoughts and Reflections
Salancik and Pfeffer make good points regarding power. I agree with their views that “it is the
environment that needs managing, not power.” They say this since different critical situations
(either internal or external) can have an influence on power, which managers and leaders need to
be aware of the “realities” of their environment and be able to change to deal with them
(Salancik & Pfeffer, 2011).
When the authors discuss the strategic contingencies theory, I like how they give an example of
how lawsuits make way for the legal department handling the critical problems of the
organization, which gives them status/power. In addition, how the head of the legal department
might make it to the head of the company, just as if the critical problem was marketing them the
marketing director would make it to the head of the company. This just goes to show how they
believe how “power derives from activities rather than individuals” and how it “derives from the
context of the situation” (Salancik & Pfeffer, 2011). This describes how power can be gained by
the changing of critical problems within an organization.
Salancik, G., & Pfeffer, J. (2011). Who Gets Power – and how They Hold on to It. In W.
Natemeyer, & P. Hersey, Classics of Organizational Behavior (pp 415-432). Long
Grove: Waveland Press.
For every section presented, you are expected to read at least two related peer reviewed journal articles
and write two article review essays (500 words each) related to your journal article readings. An example
of a review essay is provided for your use as a “template”. It is important to provide a source citation for
any information that is not the result of personal experience or research.
It is important that you follow the following format in writing your review essays (there is also an example located
Identify the article you are reviewing with APA citation;
Describe the thesis of the article you are reviewing;
Provide evidence from the article to support your thesis description;
Provide your own thoughts and analysis on the thesis with external peer reviewed sources;
Keep quotations from the article to a minimum; and,
Make your essay about 500 words in length.
Section 2: Two article reviews about either A players/B players in the workforce
and/or transformational leadership in regard to empowerment, motivation,
productivity, or other relevant constructs.
Section 3: Two article reviews about Abileen Paradox and/or groupthink, or
Section 4: Two articles about how absent leaders are no good, whether or not
leadership is coachable, mentor and mentee relationships and their benefits, or
effective project leadership.
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