The relationship between values and power

Brad C. Anderson

The previous section introduced the connection between values and power. Values may have guided what actions the organization enabled or constrained. It was through exercising power, however, that people enabled or constrained those actions.

Let’s review several critical activities described above through the lens of power. Keep Chapter VI handy as a reference.

The CEO formed a collaboration between BC and Nova Scotian health authorities along with the Foundation. This was an example of producing power relations.

  • This collaboration gave each organization access to resources that they lacked on their own. Through this collaboration, the Seniors Program came into existence.

Though the BC Health Authority CEO supported the Seniors Program, the vice presidents of the organization initially opposed it due to their focus on reducing hospital overcrowding. Their opposition took the form of denying the fellowship resources of time and personnel.

This was an example of power's second dimension. Rather than openly confront the CEO, vice presidents maintained stability by choosing, instead, to starve the program of needed inputs quietly.

When the fellowship tried to get the support of executive managers by presenting the Seniors Program as a solution to hospital overcrowding, this was an example of defining rationality.

Additionally, the fellowship could have asked the CEO to coerce the vice presidents to support the program. Instead, they chose to use the tactic of defining rationality to avoid conflict. They relied on manipulation rather than coercion. They did this to maintain stability.

These are just a few examples. You may see others.

Generally, people seldom exercise power for the sake of it. Instead, they use power in pursuit of their values or to constrain the implementation of conflicting values.

If values define the ends we find worth achieving, we exercise power to achieve those ends. If values define the appropriate means to achieve those ends, then values define which tactics of power are acceptable.


Key Takeaways

  • It is people’s exercise of power that gives structures the force to enable or constrain actions
  • Values guide the use of power
  • People use power to pursue their values
  • People use power to constrain the implementation of conflicting values


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The relationship between values and power Copyright © 2020 by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book