Influence, Power & Politics in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

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  • 0:00 Industrial/Organizatio…
  • 0:33 Influence
  • 2:13 Power
  • 3:23 Politics
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Mummert

Josh teaches Special Education courses for graduate students. He has a Master's of Science in Psychology and is in the process of earning his Ph.D in Psychology.

After reading this lesson, you'll understand the concepts of influence, power, and politics in I/O psychology and learn how they impact environmental and performance factors within an organization.

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

When most people think of psychology, they think about an arm chair and a psychologist asking them how they feel. However, there are many other branches of psychology, including industrial/organizational psychology (I/O). I/O psychology studies human behavior in the workplace. These concepts have become increasingly important since the end of World War II, especially in regards to the topics of influence, power, and politics, which we will explore in this lesson.


Influence can be described as ''a way for someone to get another person to perform a certain action or behavior.'' There are eight categories of influence that people use. These categories are:

  • Assertiveness: making demands of someone
  • Ingratiation: making another person feel important
  • Rationality: the use of logic and reasoning to influence another person
  • Sanctions: withholding tangibles
  • Exchanges: exchanging tasks or services in order to influence behavior
  • Upward Appeals: seeking the support of individuals of a higher status
  • Blocking: threatening to stop working on a task or intentionally slowing down work
  • Coalitions: getting support from others

In the context of an organization, influence serves various functions on both a positive and negative level. Positive influences take the form of individuals in authority drawing the best from their subordinates in a way that promotes teamwork and collaboration. As an example, a supervisor may encourage an employee in an effort to get them to complete a task that they may not feel confident about. In the same token, an employee may attempt to make exchanges with a customer in an effort to sell them a product by offering more items to secure the buy. However, negative influences take the form of those same individuals trying to solicit tasks or questionable decisions from others so that the results benefit the person in authority. An example of this would include a manager using sanctions to withhold pay or benefits to influence employees to complete tasks. As can be expected, both positive and negative influences exist in every organization in various forms. It is also a key component for how people use power.


Power can be defined in many ways, but from a workplace perspective, it refers to the ''use of a work relationship to influence others to complete tasks.'' There are six bases of power. These bases are:

  • Coercive Power: using threats, punishments, and other fear tactics to influence the behavior of others
  • Reward Power: offering positive reinforcement to influence behavior
  • Legitimate Power: being in a position of authority in an organization
  • Expert Power: having special or unique skill sets and knowledge that can be leveraged
  • Referent Power: the ability to influence others because of admiration
  • Information: the ability to gain information from inside sources

In the same vein as influence, power can be utilized in a positive or negative manner. Authoritative figures can use referent power positively by being a person worthy of admiration and respect, thus indirectly influencing subordinates to want to do things for them and please them. However, they could also use power to achieve their means in a negative way. Tactics involving coercion or punishment can result in the subordinates completing their work, but performance is influenced by fear instead of reverence.

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