As a leader in the workplace, one is given many responsibilities that range from banal to exciting. One responsibility that isn’t explicitly outlined in any contract is the use of power in the workplace. Striking a balance between using a managerial position to encourage or motivate and instill fear and intimidation is a delicate one – and with vastly different results. Just as superheroes are faced with the decision to use their powers for good instead of evil, leaders should follow in the steps of Superman and Captain America and use the power of their position to create a positive office environment.
The pros of positive power
Demonstrating one’s power in a business setting can be tricky, but consciously focusing on the well-being of the rest of the workforce can be a constant reminder to strive for excellence. Harvard Business Review asserted that a leader who consciously cultivates an attitude, either positive or negative, in the workplace will pass that attitude on to the employees in his or her charge. Handling power positively can motivate and inspire others to be the best they can be. A good leader builds great teams and builds up the team members. Surrounding oneself with positivity inevitably leads to a creative environment where people are free to take risks without fear of severe repercussions. How one asserts his or her power can be the difference between a respected leader with productive and creative staff and a feared leader with an office full of discord and negative feelings.
Power as a tool for fear and negativity
Power wielded with the force of a sword can cut people down emotionally and mentally. Dr. Megan Reitz, head of Leadership Experience at the Ashridge Business School in the United Kingdom, believes that “fear can destroy cognitive power,” as quoted by The Chartered Management Institute. A manager may think that instilling fear into his or her employees makes for a more efficient workplace, but in reality it breaks down one’s ability to think clearly and make rational decisions, claimed CMI. It’s also important to note that there is a distinct difference between stress and fear. Stress can be used as a self-motivation tool whereas fear and intimidation are destructive for business.
A separate study also detailed by the same CMI article, showed that people would rather feel pain than anticipate pain. This can be translated into the business world seamlessly. The fear of being chastised or reprimanded is perhaps more emotionally crippling than the actual act itself. Fear will not produce high-quality work, but shoddy work and lack of company loyalty. Asserting power is only worthwhile if the result is something of which to be proud.
Power can be used as a tool for good or it can be used as a weapon. Urgency and purpose are necessary parts of the workplace, but a fear-monger who hopes to garner the same results as someone who encourages and enables employees will be severely disappointed. Remaining open and honest with attitudes and expectations can bolster employee productivity and keep business running smoothly.