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How much informal power do you have at work?



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Maxim Sytch, associate professor of management and organisations at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, recently shared insights with the Harvard Business Review on unconventional power in the current workplace.

Unrelated to formal titles and official duties, informal power can enable an employee to mobilise resources, drive change, create value for the organisation and secure one’s place within the organisation.

It is becoming more prevalent due to the changing workflow, especially in companies with cross-functional teams, account managers or a matrix structure, and increasing collaboration with third parties such as suppliers and distributors and customers.

How strong is your power game?

Step 1: List your top 10 internal or external contacts that enable you to get work done.

Step 2: Assign a score from one to 10 indicating how much you depend on  each contact. A higher score represents the contact is more valuable and irreplaceable. Factors such as career advice, emotional backing, support with daily activities, information, and access to resources or stakeholders should be taken into account.

Step 3: Assign a score to yourself from others’ perspectives. Approximate how precious and unique are you to your contacts.

Self diagnosis

Do all of your contacts work in one team, function, product unit, or office building?
Your answer is linked to a limited ability to generate value beyond the basic requirements of your job description.

Do your contacts provide you with more value than you return?
This reveals how strong your relationship is. Asymmetries in dependence indicates others hold the power in a relationship.   

Are your dependence scores low throughout?
An indication of the prevalence of transactional relationships. High-dependence relationships can be imbued with values and relational dynamics that are not simply calculated.

Is all of the value you give or receive concentrated on a couple of contacts?
Your vulnerability if you lose these contacts or your relationship changes.

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