Follower Perceptions of Relational Power

Date

2020

Authors

Phillips, William P.

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Abstract

Much of the extant research on power focuses on the boss as the powerholder and the employee as the target of that power. However, there are some indications that interpersonal power is a more complicated relationship. The purpose of this research was to "flip the lens" and examine how employees perceive their power in relation to their immediate supervisor. By examining power from this perspective, this investigation explored the perceptions of employees regarding their bases of social power. The findings extend our understanding of power within the workplace. The study examined how employees' perceptions of power related to their feelings of job satisfaction, perceived voice behavior, and intentions to remain in their jobs. Existing measures of voice were modified and assessed to reflect self-report behaviors. Research on the bases of social power was used to generate an item pool and modified to reflect follower perceptions of relational power (power in relation to their supervisors). These items were analyzed through exploratory factor analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and then used as the antecedents to job satisfaction, turnover intentions, and self-reported voice behaviors. The resulting measures were studied in two dimensions: one consisted of items related to personal power and the other related to position power. Position power contained reward power, legitimate power, and punishment power items. Personal power contained three dimensions: interpersonal power (i.e., referent power), knowledge power, and group power. Personal and position power showed some relationship to job satisfaction, turnover intentions, and voice behavior, indicating that the relationship between follower perceptions of relational power attitudes, intentions, and behaviors should be further explored. Finally, the moderating effect of crystallized alternatives (access to other equal or better jobs) on the relationship between follower self-perceived power and employee attitudes, behaviors, and intentions was examined. The interactive effect was found to be negative for most forms of power except for interpersonal power, for which there was a positive effect. There is some support that outside access to other equal or better jobs may affect the way follower self-perceived power relates to employee attitudes, behaviors, and intentions. This research serves as a preliminary look at follower self-perceived power in the workplace.

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Keywords

Followership, Power, Upward influence, Voice

Citation

Department

Management