Dependency as a Source of Power

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn

Rob has an MBA in management, a BS in marketing, and is a doctoral candidate in organizational theory and design.

Personal and professional dynamics are influenced by the relationship between power and dependency. Explore the dependency of power, the impact of resource types on power, and their relationship to a negotiation process. Updated: 09/20/2021

Dependency of Power

Jake needs to climb a tall, steep ladder 50 feet to get to the top of the roof. Below him is his employee, Donna, who is holding the ladder in place. Without Donna holding the ladder, the ladder will slip, and Jake - well, let's just say that he's not going to be too happy hitting the ground from 50 feet up. Now, Jake is almost at the top of the ladder, and Donna calls up to him, letting him know that he has not given her an answer on her request for more money. Jake hollers back that now is not the time to talk about it, and we can talk about it later. To which Donna replies, 'If we do not talk about it now, I am quitting, and you can get someone else to hold the ladder for you!' Jake, after taking all of about 10 seconds to think about how far down the ground is, grants Donna the raise she asked for, and the ladder stays where it is.

This example, while a little extreme, shows the relationship between dependency and power. Jake was dependent on Donna for holding the ladder and had to bow to her power because it could mean a trip to the hospital if he didn't. Dependency and power are tied together in many business aspects, and it is vital we understand this relationship is present.

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  • 0:05 Dependency of Power
  • 1:10 Resource Type Dictates Power
  • 3:06 The Other Side of the Issue
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Resource Type Dictates Power

To say that Donna had some serious power over Jake is an understatement. The type of power she had was based on the resource that she had, which was holding the ladder in place. You see, the relationship between dependency and power is centered on three main areas as they relate to the sources involved.

Importance: How crucial the resource is to achieving the desired output directly relates to the amount of power it has. In the case of Donna and Jake, the importance was pretty high. Primarily because, well, if she was not there, then the ladder would slip. Jake needed her. She was, thus, a resource (a person holding the ladder in this case), who was irreplaceable at that time. Jake had to bow to her power because it was critical to his success and desired output (which was reaching the roof without the ladder slipping).

Scarcity: When there is not an abundance of a resource, we say the resource is scarce. Let's go back to Jake and Donna. If Jake was on a ladder in a 20-mile-square parking lot, and there was no one else around to help him besides Donna, then Donna as a resource was scarce. Thus, the importance of her as a resource went up because there was no one else around. To help you grasp this a little better, think of an oil shortage or crisis. If suddenly the oil-producing states decided not to ship us oil, oil as a resource would become scarce, and, thus, whoever had possession of oil would have more power.

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