Power in the workplace can take many different forms. It can even exist outside of the formal hierarchy of an organization. One particular type of power is called Reward Power.
Reward Power is one of The 5 Types of Power identified by psychologists John R. P. French and Bertram Raven in 1959.
Reward power is defined as the use of rewards to get an employee to follow an instruction or order, with power coming from one’s ability to withhold the reward for noncompliance. This power is in use, for example, when an employee is promised a day off in lieu of working a weekend to meet a tight deadline.
As you can see from the above definition, reward power is a formal type of power, and not a personal power. Where does reward power come from? Unlike personal power, reward power comes from one’s formal authority to issue rewards. Examples of rewards include:
There are two types of rewards – tangible and intangible. Tangible rewards include such things as bonuses and pay rises, whereas intangible rewards include such things as praise and increased responsibility.
There are a couple of disadvantages to tangible rewards. First, even though a manager is in a position of authority over their subordinates, they may not have the authority to issue tangible rewards such as a gift, for example. Second, even if you do have the authority to issue tangible rewards, it is possible to run out of rewards, for example, there is only so many times you can use a promotion as a reward for one person.
Because of this, it is advantageous to use intangible rewards frequently, saving tangible rewards for really big successes or only issuing them annually.
Giving someone praise in front of their peers for doing something right, can be a strong motivator for them to continue to perform. It can also encourage the rest of the team to perform, as they also want to receive the same praise. Obviously, intangible rewards have the added benefit that they don’t cost anything to the organization.
Each of the 5 types of power have their own advantages and disadvantages and can be useful under different circumstances.
The advantages of reward power are:
Some of the pitfalls of reward power include:
Reward power is defined by the use of a reward to get a subordinate to follow an instruction, with power coming from the manager’s ability to withhold the reward for noncompliance. This makes reward power a formal type of power.
The reward offered can be either tangible, such as a prize, or intangible, such as public praise. Whilst there are many advantages to using rewards, such as increased employee loyalty, it is important to ensure that you don’t inadvertently demotivate staff or run out of rewards to give.
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