We most times have the belief that only those in power at work or in superior positions have the right to exercise it. Certain circumstances and observations have made me realize that we all have some level of power within us and it all boils down to how we decide to exhibit that power, what we intend to use power to achieve and whether we want to make the best use of it or not.

Some workplaces tend to have high power distance while other don’t. It  may be as a result of cultural differences depending on your location. I previously viewed its use in a narrow perspective and I am particularly elated that my views as of today are dissimilar.

It is really important to have low power distance within the workplace, at least to a certain level, to help with effective communication among employees. This will eventually lead to productivity as there will be a high intensity of positive energy in the environment.

I sincerely believe that once employees have the freedom to express their concerns at work, there will be a mutual agreement to reach a solution that benefits all parties. Otherwise, issues may arise within the workplace which may have a negative short-term or long-term impact on the organization as a whole.

Depending on the country where you are employed, it’s important for you to determine the type of power you possess, that of your employer/ boss and then maximize it to your advantage. It is also important that you discover the type  your employer utilizes so that you can learn how to better work with him or her.

The purpose of this article is to;

  • Help you identify the types of power that may be utilized at work
  • Help you determine the power you possess and how to use it
  • Help you learn how to work with people that have a particular type of power

Note: While reading through this blog post please keep these objectives in mind and try as much as possible to note them as it may be intertwined.

“The measure of a man is what he does with power.”


Legitimate Power

This type of power at work arises as a result of a person’s job position, title or responsibilities. Here, the person exercises general control over people in lower positions within the organization.

In this case, depending on how your organization is structured, your immediate boss/ manager will be the one that has legitimate power over you. Sometimes it is also referred to as positional power.

The best way to work with someone with this type of power is to get your work done. You also want to note that this type of power was given to your boss, it is, therefore, important for him to meet up with expectations otherwise the position may be taken away from him/ her. Really, the best way to work with someone with this type of power is to help meet their objectives because most often than not, they may have a superior person to report to.

Expert Power

This is where a person has superior skills or knowledge on a particular subject matter. For example, a person at your workplace may have a Ph.D. or have several years of experience in your industry and this will bring with it some form of expert power at work.

To work amicably with such people, you should be able to accept that to some extent they actually possess superior knowledge. Allow them to make their points, and then make contributions. Make them feel special if necessary, just don’t overdo it. Be genuine!  If they are obviously making mistakes, allow them finish up their statements and then give corrections calmly. You should equally try to learn from them.

However, keep in mind that for a person to retain expert power there should be continuous learning and improvement to avoid being outdated.

Reward Power

This is based on a person’s ability to offer promotions, awards, increase in pay, job assignments, or benefits. So if you have a manager that has the duty to determine performance reviews that affect your promotion, that to an extent, exhibits reward power at work.

To work with a person that has this type of power, ensure that you reach your expectations. Create an individual development plan that includes with it goals that will help you in achieving your objectives for the organization. Discuss the plan with your employer so that you can mutually agree on how to reach those objectives. You need to do this because it will help you get your reward as long as you truly deserve it.

Referent Power

This is a power at work that arises as a result of great fondness or respect for a person. It is held by people with integrity, charisma, and other general positive attributes. You know that person you just like at work but you really don’t know why? He/ she most likely possesses referent power. The person doesn’t necessary have to be your boss, it could be a co-worker that everyone just seems to look up to in one way or the other. It could be a manager in another department different from yours.

The best way to work with such people that possess this power is to discuss and learn from them. They most likely will be happy to put you through any challenges. Learn the rubrics needed to succeed in your industry.

Connection Power

This power is possessed by someone who knows powerful people within the organization. The person may be an acquaintance or be trusted by such powerful people in the organization. This arises most likely through networking.

If you believe that you need some form of connection power to help improve your career, then you may want to socialize with the decision makers. If you cannot, then you can associate yourself with people at work that already have this power. They may play the role of the middle man for you (lol). Either way, networking is really important in today’s world. It all depends on what is comfortable for you.

Informational Power

This is where a person has important information. It is short-term and doesn’t necessarily carry so much weight. There may be an ongoing project at your place of work, the leader/ facilitator will most likely possess informational power since the strategies and other information will be in his/ her possession.

To work with such person, evaluate the extent of information you need to do your work, whether the information is relevant to you and how soon such information will be made public. This will help you handle issues that may arise as a result of such power at work.

Coercive Power

This power at work is associated with a person that leads by threats, punishment, and force. This type of power tends to make employees live in fear. There is likely to be disrespect and disloyalty towards people that possess such power.

To work with such people learn to smile at them no matter how bad they try to make you feel. Try as much as possible to meet up to expectations. Avoid being confrontational. If all fails and you are facing workplace bullying, endeavor to talk to your human resources personnel and or counselor at work.

“The power to do good is also the power to do harm.”

                                                             -Milton Friedman

Now that we have successfully discussed the types of power that you may encounter at work, it is also important for you to identify the type(s) of power you possess. Take time to evaluate your behavior. Learn to use your power positively to affect colleagues at work. Make use of the suggestions and personally apply it in your work life if need be.  Study the type of power your employer and colleagues possess and learn to work with them.

Also, please note that a person may possess more than one type of power.

Which do you possess? How has been your approach to workplace power? How have you handled power in the workplace? Share below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog for exclusive updates and information.