Power—The Hidden Engine at Work

May 7, 2018

Power—The Hidden Engine at Workwork

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are at least five undercurrents in organizations. Power is an important one. Here’s an example of how it’s used at work.

Power at work

Your company manufactures greeting cards. You are meeting with your boss Galen and your peer managers. Galen is a nice guy but to your mind, too much under the influence of Mike, one of your peers.

Galen: Alicia [Galen’s boss] wants a new service to let customers customize their cards. They access our files on say, birthdays, to pick the wording and picture. We combine them to print or send by soft copy. I’m looking for the right person to take this on.

Mike hogs things

Mike: Well, obviously, since I manage the writers, it would be best if I took it.
Sarah: Why, Mike? I’ve got the artists. People buy cards for the illustration, not the words. I should head up the new service.

You make a bid

YOU: Well, since my guys ready the illustrations and text for production, I should get it.
Mike: You’re just the back end. You put the files together so production won’t screw up.
YOU: Exactly, we’re experienced in creating saleable cards.

Mike piles on the b.s.

Mike: This needs a creative hand—to guide the customer to the right combo.
Sarah: Isn’t the whole point that the customer chooses himself?
Mike:, Exactly where you’re wrong. What do customers know about words? They’ll need help.
Sarah: What if they want to pick the illustration first?
Mike: We’d do them a disservice to allow that. We can’t create a service which results in crummy cards. They’ll blame us. Galen, this about the company’s brand. We can’t threaten that.

Galen falls for Mike’s ploy

As usual and as always, Galen is listening much as at a tennis match, looking at one person and then the other. When Mike addresses him, he gives a little start as if his mind has been elsewhere.

Galen: Well, yes, we want to enhance the brand.
Mike: You see? Galen agrees with me.
YOU: About the branding, not the new service.
Mike: The responsible thing to do is go with the team most concerned about brand protection.
YOU: Hey, I care as much as you do.
Galen: Still, Mike has a good point. We want what’s best for the company.
Mike: God knows, I’ve got enough on my plate but I’ll take it if it’s best for the company.
Sarah: I can, too.
YOU: Me, too.
Galen: I think Mike is right. The company’s good is paramount. Mike, can you do a plan for the new service?

You and Sarah fume

You are walking back to your office. Sarah is going the same way.

YOU: Can you believe the guy? For the good of the company! Like he cares.
Sarah: (nods) He’s in it for Mike. He’ll get a lot of profile at the executive committee.
YOU: I hadn’t thought of that. I was just thinking about the increase in his budget.
Sarah: This better be new money and not out of our budgets.
YOU: I can’t be cut any more. I’m down to the bone as it is!
Sarah: Me, too. That damn Mike!

Power matters

So, power matters. In the next post, I’ll talk about how ignoring its influence can get you into trouble.

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