A crucial competitive advantage in bringing talented individuals into the organisation can be exploited by successfully avoiding some common pitfalls in the recruiting process.  The leveraged advantage can be quite significant - bad hiring decisions can cost competitors organisations a lot of money.  A mistake made in the recruitment and selection process leading to employee turnover can cost half to two-thirds of an employee’s annual salary. With costs that high, can any organisation afford to make mistakes in recruitment? No business wants to hire the wrong person for the job. We hope these five tips may aid in your candidate selection.

1.       Too much about the money, too little about the brand value
It’s easy to assume that a great salary package alone will attract top candidates. Often however, it is not all about the money. Research shows that a job seekers’ perception of a company’s reputation affects how much they want to join the company. If the company is held in high regard, candidates are less likely to make a decision based on remuneration alone. To achieve a positive brand image among potential candidates, HR managers can add significant value by identifying what is valuable for their target candidates and advertise accordingly. For example: fresh graduates will want to develop their skills and expand their network, therefore graduate job advertisements could emphasise mentoring programs, networking events, and on-the-job training. Senior roles however might emphasise coaching and development opportunities, flexible work arrangements, engagements and involvement in innovation.

2.       Relevant department input into the role. 
Most candidates value contact with or attention from the functional head of the area in which the role sits – so their early involvement can be crucial. Writing job advertisements is usually the recruiter or HR partner’s job, but the relevant department manager can ensure clarity and accuracy around the duties, skills and key competencies. This will prevent miscommunication, especially for highly specialised roles. It can be frustrating for candidates when recruiters aren’t specific enough about the role. Set clear expectations about the position, and utilise the experience of your organisation to present a clear and attractive value proposition. Candidates value a real world presentation of the job and role.

3.       Too much reliance on resumes and interviews, too little on psychometrics
The resume and interview process is a mainstay of recruitment and a useful tool to aid in shortlisting candidates. However there is a significant body of evidence that the predictive validity of unstructured interviews is about the same as tossing a coin. One reason for this is difficult to admit, but the resume and interview can unconsciously bias recruiters about candidates based on race, gender, age, social context, and more. In a perfect world, interviewers would evaluate people objectively; however judging people naturally becomes subjective.
Research has shown that candidates who are different from an otherwise similar group of finalists have a very little chance of being hired, even if they’re the most qualified candidate. Further, candidates who are similar to the hiring manager are also prioritised as we naturally gravitate towards people who are similar to ourselves.

To minimise the risk of bias, psychometric tests can ensure candidates are objectively assessed as much as possible. This can offer a clearer rationale why one candidate is a better fit for your organisation. A psychometric scale examining resilience is much more likely to differentiate people than an open-ended question during an interview process. Furthermore, you are provided with an objective, comparative metric to probe particular competencies in an interview context. The use psychometric assessment in a recruitment and selection process avoids placing the organisation in an uneasy legal position because of unconscious biases, or having to admit that the composition of the staff in general or leadership team in particular differs widely from the general population in terms of gender or ethnicity.

4.       A focus on streamlining
In talent starved markets, failing to make an offer to a candidate in a timely manner will risk losing them to your competition. The best organisations have streamlined their recruitment processes to minimise the risk of losing the best candidates for the role. Organisations need to develop a clear idea of what they need and want, and how they will evaluate this, so that the decision-making is as efficient as possible.

A major achievement in this context is that companies have begun to use online demographic, biographical and psychometric measures in the screening process rather than psychometrics in a post-interview context. Organisational financial and people metrics can be positively impacted through: time to hire, cost of hire, and turnover metrics.

Every minute counts, deliver objective and quantitative data before interviews commence, schedule multiple interviews in a single day, prepare any additional testing ahead of time, and automate your recruitment system to maximise the speed of the recruitment process. If your organisation doesn’t have the capacity to quickly review candidates, you can always outsource recruitment to ensure a speedy hire. Once you have made a decision on a candidate, don’t delay. A lot can happen between 4pm Wednesday and Thursday morning, as your role will almost never be the only role a candidate is interested in pursuing.     

5.       Feedback and candidate care
Recruitment can be extremely time-consuming, but any strong recruitment strategy emphasises candidate care. Updating applicants and providing feedback at each stage of their application can emphasise the recruitment’s fairness. Perception of a fair and efficient recruitment process can generate a positive perception of the company, even for unsuccessful applicants. Feedback can range from letting candidates know that they have been unsuccessful with a short ‘thank you for your time and interest’, to providing a brief explanation on competencies that can be further improved. 

Factual and objective feedback that outlines why a candidate isn’t the right fit for the role is far more likely to leave prospects walking away from your organisation with no hard feelings, as opposed to jarring personal statements of inadequacy seemingly based on personal opinion. Appropriate candidate care increases your good press, and increases the likelihood of access to additional prospects.

In summary, the costs of a bad hire have serious financial implications, but also impact workplace culture, performance, and productivity. Maximise your chances of a positive return on investment by developing robust recruitment strategies, and avoid the missteps of competitors to lower unnecessary turnover from and provide significant value add to your organisation.  

In many organisations resilience is a vital predictor of turnover. The Business Personality Reflections® (BPR) is a personality questionnaire that measures business-related competencies to assist in selection and personal development decisions. Developed by Psych Press, this assessment contains 70 personality scales that can be tailored to any organisation’s needs. Below is more information about the Resilience Scale in the Business Personality Reflections®

Resilience is described as the ability of an individual to adapt to changes in their environment and bounce back from stressful experiences. It indicates the degree to which an individual can maintain a stable and motivated working mindset in the face of difficult situations. Resilience is vital for success in today’s rapidly changing and expanding work environment because it allows for the individual to maintain their working standards regardless of the challenges they face. Without it, inevitable changes in working conditions will negatively impact personal and performance outcomes for employees.

A sample item for the resiliency factor that you may see on the BPR or other questionnaires could be: “I struggle to find positives when bad things happen.”

Studies have shown that high levels of resilience are negatively related to a number of psychological outcomes such as burnout (Mak et al., 2011), secondary traumatic stress (Mealer et al., 2012), depression (McGarry et al., 2013) and anxiety (Lu et al., 2014). For example, in separate studies Mealer et al. (2012) and McGarry et al. (2013) both found that high resilience was associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These studies also found that high resilience was associated with lower levels of burnout, which is described as emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and reduced personal accomplishment in the work environment. Furthermore, resilience has been positively related to work engagement (Mache et al., 2014) and job performance (Er-Xiu & Shu-wen, 2010).

Individuals who score highly on the Business Personality Reflections® Resilience Scale are more likely to work in a purposeful and determined manner to reach goals even in the presence of potential complications preventing their progress.

You might consider using a resilience scale in your recruiting and development processes if employees often deal with:

  • ·         Major and unexpected hiccups that require rapid response.
  • ·         Stakeholders, staff, or clients that have strong opposing views. 
  • ·         Long term-projects that drag on and demand sustained energy and enthusiasm.
  • ·         Crises where remaining calm and optimistic is needed.
  • ·         Intensive periods of work involving long hours, multiple tasks, and tight deadlines.

Organisations need resilient employees that have the capacity to handle a changing, unpredictable or disrupted environment.  We hope that the Resilience Scale can provide useful information, amongst other relevant scales about potential candidate performance within your work context or environment.  

If you were interested in learning more about the Resilience Scale, or the Business Personality Reflections® Personality questionnaire please simply enquire now for a free trial.

A brief guide to competencies, what they are, and how to use them 

Imagine you are preparing to interview a candidate, what attributes or qualities are you looking to identify, what skills do you expect to improve your organisation?

Competencies are the behaviours that enable employees to act effectively in their position. They encompass the knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics that distinguish capability. Understanding competencies helps determine and measure organisational success and individual performance.
There are two broad types of competencies: behavioural and functional competencies.

Behavioural competencies are known as the ‘soft skills’. Soft skills underlie many key performance indicators and describe ‘how’ someone approaches a task or problem.  These are innately subjective and built up over time. They can include competencies such as: self-management, communication, customer-orientation, strategic thinking, confidence, professionalism, stress management, and integrity.

In sales roles, the behavioural competency ‘customer-orientation’ is highly valued. This competency ensures that the needs of the consumer are always first in the eyes of employees. However it can be difficult to define whether a person is ‘customer-oriented’.  

Functional competencies are known as the technical skills. Technical skills are specific to departments or types of job, and are required to fulfil employee duties and responsibilities.

A functional competency in an IT role might be to operate pivot tables in an Excel spreadsheet, or to consolidate accounts in a Finance Accountant role.

An effective workforce possesses both behavioural and functional competencies. Both support an organisation’s strategic advantage in achieving its mission and vision against competitors.
Problematically, the modern educational system produces graduates that have academic credentials, but lack the competencies to effectively adapt to the changing world of work. John Taylor Gatto, an educational historian, warned that graduates aren’t taught the necessary competencies that maximise corporate advantage. He cited the Harvard Business School, which provides 10 essential qualities that employees need to succeed in the rapidly shifting work environment.
  1. The ability to define problems without a guide.
  2. The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
  3. The ability to quickly assimilate needed data from masses of irrelevant information.
  4. The ability to work in teams without guidance.
  5. The ability to work absolutely alone.
  6. The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
  7. The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
  8. The ability to discuss ideas with an eye toward application.
  9. The ability to think inductively, deductively and dialectically.
  10. The ability to attack problems heuristically.
Organisations should strive to identify and foster these qualities in their employees. These abilities are examples of the ‘soft skill competencies’ that drive organisational value. For instance, ’The ability to work in teams without guidance’, aligns with the conscientiousness self-management competency described below, and predicts organisational success. Paired with more functional role training, the organisational benefits of these soft skills skyrocket.

Understanding competencies is the first step that allows savvy HR managers to get the best out of their staff. It is however, only half the battle. We also need to how to effectively use them.

Now that we know what competencies are, how do we use them?

Before you can begin to use competencies in your organisation, a competency model needs to be developed. A competency model is a diagnostic tool designed by selecting the core skills that are required for someone to be successful in their organisation and position.

The scale model approach is a popular method that organises competencies on a scale. This can help hiring managers better discriminate between individuals’ relative strengths and weaknesses. To do this we select competencies to test and rate individuals on a scale of how well they appear to possess it. Possible scales might rate competencies from 1 to 10, or compare candidates to company averages. For the 10 behavioural competencies we just outlined, we could easily create a competency scale model that compares candidates against employees, or averages across the organisation. A comparison with a company’s average ensures organisational growth, as candidate competencies can be aligned with organisational goals.

How would a HR manager use competencies at work?

HR managers should use competencies to align future candidates with the business’s strategic objectives. Matching competencies and roles allows the measurement of performance and productivity, and the development of a human resource strategy.
  • Recruitment, Training, and Development
Using diagnostic tools in the recruitment, training, and development of employees is a means of ensuring staff are capable workers. An early assessment of competencies will identify the areas where a candidate excels, and has room to improve. This helps to ensure consistency in recruitment, and provides objective measures of the candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. It also provides a legal defence against recruitment processes being challenged when they are not linked with required standards and are not consistently applied across candidates. When new employees are on-boarded, HR managers can develop training schemes designed to improve specific competencies.
  • Setting Clear Behavioural Expectations
Knowing employee strengths and weaknesses means that they can be directed to areas in which they can best contribute their skills within an organisation. A smart HR manager will promote and reinforce positive behaviours that are consistent with the organisational mission and culture. Employees are likely to become more consistent and are more likely to adhere to the behavioural expectations presented by management.
  • Simplifying HR Operations
When competencies are measured, HR can quickly react to organisational demands, such as skill-gaps and development needs. Organisational programs can be devised to maximise their return on investment.
  • Happy and Valued Employees are Productive and Cost-Effective
Employees are generally happier and feel more fulfilled when their competencies match their positions, ensuring that they are more engaged with their responsibilities and goals. Likewise, the feelings of value and recognition are improved in positions paired with a person’s competencies, acting as a further motivator for performance.

Using competencies within the workplace provides numerous advantages for HR managers. Their appropriate use will ensure more productive, efficient, and co-operative organisations.

Sometimes competencies are clearly personality based. For example, in health-care environments, empathy and compassion will clearly positively impact the patient experience.

When competencies are personality-based, a personality questionnaire will efficiently and inexpensively provide a scaled competency assessment.

The Business Personality Reflections® is one personality questionnaire that measures business-related competencies to assist in selection and personal development decisions. Developed by Psych Press, this assessment contains 70 personality scales that can be tailored to any organisation’s needs. Below is more information about the Business Personality Reflections® Self-Management Scale. 

Self-Management or Conscientiousness

Self-Management is described as the ability to work in a productive, efficient, and goal-orientated manner. It requires persistence, self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility. The Self-Management scale in the Business Personality Reflections® questionnaire measures the capacity of individuals to adopt and work towards organisational goals. Individuals who score highly on this factor are likely to be dedicated, proficient, and organised. Employees who have self-management characteristics present a sizable competitive advantage as they will multi-task, show self-discipline, and strive harder than others to help the organisation succeed.

The results of various studies and meta-analyses (Barrick & Mount, 1991; Hough, Eaton, Dunnette, Kamp & McCloy, 1990; Salgado, 1997; Tett, Jackson & Rothstein, 1991; Vinchur, Schippmann, Sweizer & Roth, 1998) showed that various big five personality dimensions are related to job performance. Barrick and Mount (1991) and Salgado (1997) found that conscientiousness is one of the best predictors of job performance in the USA and Europe. De Fruyt and Mervielde (1999), Tokar and Subich (1997), Schneider (1999) and Vinchur et al. (1998) concluded that Extraversion and Conscientiousness predict job performance in various occupations. (Bolding added) (Cited from Rothmann & Coetzer, 2003).

Self-management can also counteract the effects of social loafing, which damages team performance. Social loafers put in less effort on group tasks because they believe they can hide laziness within crowds, but self-managed employees have the skills to compensate and ensure deliverables arrive on time.
A sample item for the self-management factor that you may see on our questionnaires could be “I make decisions quickly and effectively.”

You might consider using self-management scales in your recruiting and development processes if:

· You don’t have the time or resources to be ‘looking over shoulders’.

· Tasks require a degree of quick decision-making or perfection.

· New employee should be delivering value shortly after being hired.

· You have several tasks with ‘ambiguous’ goals, time frames or boundaries.

Organisations need employees with self-management skills to perform well. Find and develop the right people for your organisational to maintain your competitive advantage.

If you were interested in learning more about the self-management scale, or the Business Personality Reflections® Personality questionnaire please simply enquire now for a free trial.
offboarding employees

The right way to say good-bye...

It’s never easy saying goodbye to an employee, is it? While the recruitment process is all positivity and good first impressions, the off-boarding process can suffer from awkward emotions, (and possibly) fiery tempers, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Off-boarding is a somewhat new term which describes how to effectively manage the process of departure for an employee exiting an organisation. 

An effective off-boarding strategy involves more than processing paperwork and logistics. When you off-board employees properly, you are aiming to create brand ambassadors that will improve your ability to attract the best employees in the market now and into the future.

Most people think of the employee life-cycle as linear, but it is in fact circular. Your off-boarding strategy will impact your recruiting strategy directly, so you’ll want to make sure that it is seamless and stress-free so you and your employees get the best experience possible.  Here are 9 steps to a successful off-boarding which you may find useful:

1.     Use the ‘12 stranger litmus test’. This test is a philosophy which gives you an outside perspective on your organisation and processes. To do this you must consider what 12 strangers would think about your off-boarding experience. This can often be an important first step in understanding how individuals’ with no insider understanding of your organisation would judge the fairness of your off-boarding strategy. This test is a useful strategy to help you evaluate your current off-boarding procedures to make sure they are fair. 

2.     Don’t panic or give in to emotional reactions. The employee has their reasons for leaving so engage them with respect and understanding – this will encourage employees to feel more comfortable in providing honest feedback in the off-boarding process. If employees feel that their opinions and recommendations are respected and acknowledged by your organisation, then they are more likely to spread positive word of mouth. The off-boarding process can be an emotional time for you and the departing employee, so remain calm and collected. DON’T make impulsive counter offers to keep them at your company by any means, and DON’T accuse them of disloyalty. 

3.     Construct a timeline. Here is your chance to lay out a plan that will best suit you and the departing employee. Establish a clear timeline in advance which details: who will be replacing them, and what strategies can be applied to make their exit process a smooth transition.

4.     Set up an apprenticeship learning program. If you have constructed an effective timeline, you will be able to have the replacement working with the departing employee as an apprentice. This cross-over means that valuable training, intellectual property, and know-how can be passed onto the new recruit. Professor Dorothy Leonard of Harvard Business School notes that many departing employees have critical business and experienced based knowledge, so it’s important not to lose that knowledge in the off-boarding process. Although you cannot “clone” an employee, an effective apprenticeship program will allow the replacement to identify what is required of the job and how the previous employee matched those requirements.

5.     Set up a Q & A. If you are short on time and cannot appoint a replacement, Professor Leonard recommends a Q & A meeting between the departing employee and the rest of the team to allow the employee a chance to share their experience with your company.

6.     The exit interview. The exit interview is your best chance to understand whether there are, if any, ineffective procedures within your workplace. To discover any ineffective procedures, engage the employee in a positive atmosphere that allows the employee to be candid about their feedback towards the company. Focus not only on why the employee is leaving, but on what improvements could be made to the company from the former employee’s perspective. By granting the employee a chance to speak honestly about their time at your company, you allow closure for the employee, and a higher likelihood of them becoming your brand ambassador.

7.     Remove access to company assets. Following the exit interview, make sure you remove the departing employee’s access to any company assets. Failure to do so may lead to theft of intellectual property and assets. Remembering this step is an absolute must.

8.     Create an alumni group. Creating an alumni group can cultivate positive employee relations and job opportunities. Leonard also notes that departing employees are taking the next step in the careers – this increases the likelihood of them feeling good about the place they’re leaving from. If departing employees are thought of as ‘alumni’, there is a greater chance that they will have positive feelings about the place that they have left.

9.     Provide additional outgoing services. By providing career workshop sessions, mock interview sessions, and outplacement support teams, employees will leave the company knowing they were treated fairly and with respect. Showing employees that you are willing to support their career change will increase the likelihood of them promoting the procedures of your company.

An effective off-boarding strategy aims to benefit you and the departing employee. Remember, the employee lifecycle is circular and just because an employee is leaving, it doesn’t mean it is the end.

By following these steps, you are giving your company the best chance to improve your brand reputation, and attract talent later down the line. If you ever get stuck, just keep this final thought in mind: if you were the departing employee, how would you like to be said good-bye to?  

Employee engagement refers to the degree to which an individual feels a passion for and commitment to his or her workplace. This is important because an engaged workforce is the difference between an organisation which keeps itself afloat and one which thrives. One company with a solid understanding of employee engagement is Zappos, a successful online retailer. But before we look at Zappos, let’s take a closer look at the different types of employee engagement.

A recent article by the Gallup Business Journal outlined three levels of engagement that employees may exhibit:

1.      An engaged employee feels passionate about and connected to the company for which they work. They are happy to bring their innovation and skills to move the company into the future.  

2.      An employee who is disengaged will only complete the minimum amount of work and they will not display ‘discretionary effort’. That is, they will not put in any additional time or effort above what is expected. They merely show up, and lack the motivation and enthusiasm of an engaged employee.

3.      An employee who is actively disengaged is more than unhappy or unmotivated. This is displayed through behaviour such as completing less work than required, or creating difficulties for fellow employees.

Knowing the distinctions between levels of employee engagement is a great start, but how can that knowledge be put into practice?

As mentioned above, Zappos is an online shoe and clothing store based in Las Vegas. They are thriving in an extremely competitive environment, and they are doing so because of their commitment to employee engagement and customer satisfaction. For proof of this, we need look no further than their customer base, which exceeds 7 million, and the comparison between the resumes they receive in one year (30,000) and their available positions (300). 300,000 people want to work at Zappos each year, possibly due to the innovative strategies Zappos uses to keep their people happy and dedicated:

·         Zollars are a form of internal currency that Zappos employees receive for volunteering to help with different tasks, taking part in training or answering questions. These company dollars can then be redeemed for exclusive Zappos merchandise, a donation to charity or movie tickets. 

·         The Co-worker Bonus Program involves co-workers rewarding each other with a $50 bonus. A bonus can be given once a month by each employee but there is no limit to how many bonuses an employee can receive, providing those bonuses are given by different employees. 

·         The HERO Award operates alongside the Co-Worker Bonus Program. The HERO Award is given to someone who wholly embodies the core values of the company, and employees are nominated when they receive a co-worker bonus.

·         Master of WOW Parking refers to an ideal parking spot being given to an employee for one week after they were nominated for the reward by a co-worker.

These peer-driven incentives are part of Zappos’ shift from a hierarchical organisation to one based on Holacracy. In other words, they are creating a system which strives to provide employees with more power and control over their work. This is a smart move, as the Ivey Business Journal noted that giving employees a sense of control was one of the 10 most effective means of fostering employee engagement.

The “10 C’s of Employee Engagement” outlined by the Ivey Business Journal are evidently an integral part of Zappos, but they could be adopted by any organisation to the same effect.

The 10 C’s can be simplified into two categories: the types of tasks employers can assign their employees and how and what they communicate with employees.

·         Assign employees tasks that give them a sense of control or autonomy. For example, consulting with individual employees about areas in which they may want to improve or extend themselves can prove a good way to do this.
·         If possible, have employees work in teams, at least on occasion. This can encourage them to rely upon and collaborate with each other. While you may feel you already do this, there are several factors you could consider when assigning teams which will optimize task performance and engagement:

·         The size of the teamresearch has shown that in teams of 5 or more, social loafing can occur, a phenomenon whereby some team members contribute little – if any – effort, leaving others to do more than their fair share. To avoid social loafing, this research suggests teams should, where possible, consist of 5 members or less. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh stated his awareness of social loafing, specifically, the notion that cities, contrary to organizational teams, tend to see a productivity increase of 15% per resident when their population doubles. Hsieh cites this as the main reason for trying to “structure Zappos more like a city and less like a bureaucratic organisation.”

·         The personalities of different team members – if all team members are dominant and seek a leadership position, they are unlikely to successfully co-operate. Conversely, if all team members are passive and quiet, they may co-operate but struggle to make decisions. This highlights the importance for some diversity even in small teams to ensure optimal performance.

·         Congratulate employees on their effort/a job well done in a variety of ways. This includes but is not restricted to verbal praise and/or financial rewards.
·         Ensure that employees know they are making a meaningful contribution to the organisation by providing information and feedback in relation to the company performance and their own.

·         Employers should explicitly convey their expectations of employees to avoid miscommunication.

·         Provide employees opportunities for career advancement.
·         Managers can give their employees a clear vision of the goals of the organisation.
·         Beyond this, they should also provide specific and achievable goals at an individual or department level.  

Zappos is particularly explicit in its desire to deliver a “WOW” service to its customers and staff. This is well recognised, as Zappos ranked #6 on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2011.

In fact, Zappos is so good at keeping their employees interested in and devoted to the company, that they spawned Zappos Insights, an organisation specifically designed to “help share the Zappos culture with the world.”

So why should an organisation strive to have its employees engaged as much as possible?
In a nutshell: engaged workers are productive workers, and they create a well-functioning organisation. The benefits of employee engagement are not restricted to the employees themselves. They have a significant impact on the overall reputation and performance of the company, as the Zappos example clearly displays.

Zappos treats its workers like human beings, not just numbers or cogs in the Zappos machine, and the results are undeniable.

The lesson is clear: If you want employees who are engaged within their company, make sure that you are engaged with them first. 

Power is a word that is bandied about in the media, dropped in headlines and used to describe everything from dictators and politicians, to the everyday person and their ability to create change. The definition of power becomes murky in the context of the workplace, but it becomes clearer when we ask the right questions. 

Firstly: What is power?

Very simply, power is the ability to act. It is often associated with the ‘strong and mighty’, but power is exercised every time we make something happen in our own lives or in others’. Every individual, no matter size, strength, or position uses power. We do this every day, from the moment we decide to get up out of bed to the moment we decide to fall asleep.

Why does power become so complicated in the workplace?

Power takes on different forms when it is extended outwards and exercised in a workplace context. The context that we’re in determines how power manifests itself. Often, you don’t notice power paradigms until you become consciously aware of them. People are most likely to notice power when they reflect on a situation where they felt dis-empowered. This means that most people are completely oblivious to how power works on a day-to-day basis.

Because power is used by everyone all the time, understanding power in the workplace can help you deal with co-workers, avoid being bullied, and support your team. Each manifestation of power is attained differently and can be broken down into several categories, as detailed below:

1) Coercive Power
Uses threats or force to make others listen to you and to change their behaviour. Coercive power is often associated with the boss who bullies, belittles, and badgers his employees to “do as they're told”. It can bring with it feelings of loathing and anger towards upper management. This type of power paradigm can fall away outside of a workplace environment because the workplace hierarchy is what supports it, outside of this context, the hierarchy is shattered.

2) Connection Power
Is the power of association. Connection power is based on who you know, who will support you, and the level of power they  wield. It is often used in second-level management, where people are in a position that allows them to make decisions, with the proviso that someone above them approves of their choices. The manager who defaults to: “don’t make me tell upstairs about this, just do as I say” is a person who is using their relationship with a senior as their power base. With this type of power, reputation of the connection alone, can be enough to deliver someone extra perceived power, yet, this type of power can quickly deteriorate if they are no longer supported by a superior.

3) Expert Power
Is the use of knowledge or skill to place oneself in control. If you have, or are seen to have expertise in a specific area, people feel obliged to listen to your council and act accordingly . This power rests on your ability to be the leading source of knowledge in a field and to help fix problems or generate new ideas. Expert power is maintained through keeping up-to-date with the most recent information and constantly honing your skill. If people doubt your level of proficiency, either due to failure or lack of knowledge, this power quickly evaporates.

4) Informational Power
Is the ability to access information that is key to completing a task or achieving a goal. It is closely related to expert power, but doesn’t require expertise. Rather, it requires being able to access information, and then use it to drive a project or complete deals. Much like expert power, if your ability to access the necessary information is severed, so too is your ability to exercise this power. 

5) Legitimate/Positional Power
Is the power granted through title or position and so it can be linked to authority. This type of power allows you to make decisions and delegate tasks, because the workplace hierarchy allows you to do so. This type of power is often tied to the level of responsibility that the position entails. For example if you are in charge of a department, the success or failure of that department rests on your shoulders. If the team fails, then you are held accountable, but, if the team succeeds your power is maintained. 

Issues tend to arise when the perceived power and responsibility becomes unbalanced. If the level of power that someone is given outweighs the individuals’ capacity to effectively use it, people will lose respect for the individual believing that they don’t deserve to be in such a position, thus straining the relationship and causing unrest.  

6) Referent Power 
Is the ability to influence through loyalty, respect, friendship, admiration, affection, or desire to gain approval. Essentially, it involves one person influencing the actions of another because of their desire to like them, or be liked by them. One example of this is the charismatic leader who makes other people feel good about themselves, this person is given power because other people want to be liked by him or to be like him in some way. On the other end of the spectrum is the sycophant who is always ‘sucking up’ to the boss. This person tries to create allegiance or affinity where there is none, in order to gain favour. 

Referent power is related to connection power because both use the power of association. In this case referent power can be used by both parties and can be less obvious to detect. 

7) Reward Power
Is anchored in the ability to bestow rewards. For example, the person in the company who assigns bonuses, job assignments, rosters, etc. While this power often comes with authority, authority or position are not required. 

Often, the person with the power to give rewards is put in a difficult position. If they are seen to favour someone in particular, or to be too democratic in their distribution of rewards, they can be looked down upon and the rewards lose their power. This form of power is also easily taken away, if the person in charge of rewards has their budget stripped away or their role is changed, they are likely to lose a lot of their reward power.

As you’re probably thinking, if one person is given a lot of power, such as: the ability to hand out rewards, legitimate/positional power, and connection power, then they are the most powerful person in the building! You’re also probably remembering back to a time where you felt dis-empowered and now you can explain exactly why that was. Remember though, power is simply the ability to act. 

In the end, if we are aware of how power manifests itself, avoid its pitfalls, and use it to maximize our potential, it can be a valuable tool. If we realise our own ability to act, and encourage those around us to do so, we can all become masters of power.