Understanding the Role of Power in Decision Making

Jeffrey Pfeffer

In “Understanding the Role of Power in Decision Making”, Pfeffer thought that the political behavior reflects one’s need for power; budget allocation is the result of politics, in political life. Success in obtaining a promotion is attributed to one’s ability to play office politics.

Pfeffer thought that power derives from responsibility. People who have power in the organization also have the responsibility for performing the critical tasks. Similarly with Michels’ view of power in the end of oligarchy, Pfeffer defined that power is the ability to get things done the way one wants them done. Pfeffer thought that people don’t have power themselves, while their position empowers them special authority to influence others in political life. Pfeffer pointed out that organizational politics is the expression of power; meanwhile, it is a method to expand the power.

Power is the result of division of labor and specialization. Power comes to be arbitrary. Therefore, standards, rules and processes become important in exercising powers.

However, Power has been neglected for three reasons: first, the concept of power is problematic. Secondly, power is something, it is not everything, competing for the values of decision making—rationality and effectiveness. Thirdly, the concept of power is troublesome. Similarly, Kanter thought that “power” is a “dirty” word, which no one would like to talk it; however, it exists and plays an essential role in accomplishing organizational goals in reality.

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