As a trainer and consultant, I’ve come across many different models for giving power to the people in a workplace. Some paint a big picture of power throughout society or over time. They are relevant because businesses and organisations are part of society and share the same structures. Others present a small picture view, offering help on how to persuade your client, your boss, or your audience.

Because it’s Workplace Politics Awareness Month, I’ve gather the best of them together in this one blog. As you read, remember the words of Sir Francis Bacon that mark the beginning of the modern era.

ipsa scientia potestas est” (‘knowledge itself is power’)

The Three Modes of Persuasion

Rhetoric was one of the key parts of Greek education in the ancient world, along with Grammar and Dialectic. The word ‘rhetoric’ comes from the Greek for orator. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion through the use of spoken and written language. The Greeks considered it necessary in a democracy since persuasion is the only way to give power to the people without resorting to force of arms and coercion.

Aristotle in his Rhetoric divided rhetorical strategies into three modes or ways of working:

  1. Ethos the use of a speakers character or credentials to make their argument credible
  2. Pathos the use of passion and pictures to stir up emotions
  3. Logos the use of reason in the form of facts and arguments to prove the case

The Three Types of Social Power

Futurologist Alvin Toffler wrote in Powershift that there are three types of power, each of which has shifted to a different, dominant class of people over time.

  1. Violence associated with the old nobility (negative)
  2. Wealth industrialists and financiers (positive and negative)
  3. Knowledge modern ‘knowledge workers ‘ (transformative)

He summarised these as Muscle, Money, and Mind. Each type of power has shifted from group to group over time in increasingly flexible ways.

Canadian scholar J K Galbraith proposed a very similar tripartite typology of social power in his book, The Anatomy of Power.

  1. Condign based on force
  2. Compensatory through the use of various resources
  3. Conditioned the result of persuasion

Galbraith added that there were three sources for each type of power: personality, property, and organisational.

The Four Political Animals

Different authors have suggested that we have to grapple with all kinds of different animals in the political jungle of work. The best I’ve come across is this one. It originates from an article called Owl, Fox, Donkey or Sheep: Political Skills for Managers.

  1. Donkey – inept, low political intelligence, low integrity
  2. Sheep – innocent, low political intelligence, high integrity
  3. Fox – cunning, high political intelligence, low integrity
  4. Owl – wise, high political intelligence, high integrity

The Four Strategies of Influence

One of the most useful accounts of the persuasion strategies in The Influence Styles Model. A variation of this is Dr Tim Baker’s Four Strategies of Influence. It divides major strategies into those that push (‘driving’) and those that pull (‘enabling’).

  1. Arguing – a push strategy that focuses on the message (logic and facts)
  2. Asserting – a push strategy that focuses on the person (statements and repetitions)
  3. Empathising – a pull strategy that focuses on the person (engagement and connection)
  4. Energising – a pull strategy that focuses on the message (vision and goals)

The Six Bases of Power

In 1959, social psychologists French and Raven identified The Bases Of Social Power. This included workplace organisations. They initially found five but added a sixth in 1965.

  1. Legitimate Power – position (president, prime minister, monarch)
  2. Reward Power – favours (managers, CEOs, directors)
  3. Expert Power – skills (scientists, academics, thought leaders)
  4. Referent Power – charisma (celebrities, community leaders)
  5. Coercive Power – threat (judges, police and military)
  6. Informational Power – knowledge (media, PR, lobbyists)

As a communication consultancy, we possess expert power in many of these issues. Dawn has designed and delivered many successful workshops on assertiveness and networking. I’ve coached people in presenting and those aspects of Emotional Intelligence that help us interact with others (especially empathy and persuasion) . Give us a call and persuade us to work with you.