Fresh Look – How much power does your job provide?

Office politics is about power, and we all have two sources: our job, and the sources like our networks, expertise, and inside information that we personally cultivate. Ever wonder how much power your job gives you? Take the following test and find out.

Position Power Survey[1]

Directions: Indicate your level of agreement with all the items below with the following scale

1=strongly disagree 2=disagree 3=slightly disagree 4=neutral 5=slightly agree 6=agree 7=strongly agree

____1. My position is important to the effectiveness of my organization.
____2. My position is crucial to achieving the most important goals of my organization.
____3. My position is necessary for the effective operation of my organization.
____4. Few others in my organization have been cross-trained to perform my job.
____5. My organization would have difficulty assigning my tasks to others in the organization.
____6. It would be difficult for other people in different positions within my organization to perform my work tasks.
____7. My work activities are connected with the work activities of my co-workers.
____8. The work activities of my position connect to the work activities of many others.
____9. The activities performed by my position are tied into the work activities of many others.
___10. If employees in my position all stopped working, the activities of my organization would be substantially impeded.
___11. My organization would be impacted instantly if all employees in my position stopped working.
___12. If people in my position stopped working, the rest of the organization would come to a grinding halt.

Scoring: Calculate a mean response for items 1-3. If it is above 6.7, your job is high in criticality. If it is below 4.5, your job is low in criticality. Calculate a mean response for items 4-6. If it is above 5.9, it is high in non-substitutability. If it is below 3.6, it is low in non-substitutability. Calculate a mean response for items 7-9. If it is above 6.2, it is high in pervasiveness. If it is below 4.1, it is low in pervasiveness. Calculate a mean response for items 10-12. If it is above 6.5, it is high in immediacy. If it is below 4.2, it is low in immediacy.

What does the criticality of a job mean? Basically, it’s the perceived importance of the job’s resources in achieving organizational goals. Universities often strive to obtain outside research funding in order to finance other activities. So, if a university employee’s job enables one to acquire such funding, one’s job is critical.[2] Similarly, if an organization aims to improve time-to-market on its new product offerings, positions like product marketing and engineering administration are particular. Clever office politicians try to influence organizational goals to make their positions more critical. For example, landscape architects often lobby for the acceptance of goals that favor projects that feature the exteriors as much as the interiors of structures. The fact remains, however, that some positions are unlikely to ever have much criticality unless events elevate the importance of certain goals. Employee health and safety specialists are likely to languish with little influence unless accident rates or insurance claims rise significantly.

Non-substitutability refers to a job’s exclusiveness relative to its alternatives. If the job’s tasks cannot be done by anyone in another position, the job is non-substitutable.[3] If a job’s responsibilities overlap with others or where the jurisdiction of a position is not well defined, it loses its non-substitutability and position power. This is what motivates most turf battles in office politics as job holders jostle for positions where their assignments and responsibilities are exclusive.[4]

A third dimension of position power is pervasiveness. This refers to the number of other jobs that are affected by a job’s performance. If someone at the beginning of a long work process fumbles performance, how many other jobs are affected?[5] This is a measure of how central a job is in the system of jobs that make up a process. One example is the chief of staff that arranges things so no one can get to see or talk with a key executive is by going through her. Another example is that quality assurance professional that inserts herself into virtually every aspect of a production operation.

Immediacy is related to pervasiveness. Here the concern is with how quickly a change in the performance of one job affects others. Imagine what would happen if one job holder stopped performing for one reason or another. Immediacy is gleaned when an employee is absent or disabled.

It is wise to monitor changes in your job’s criticality, non-substitutability, pervasiveness, and immediacy not only because of their effects on your power, but also because these job dimensions are related to your well-being. Specifically, scores of the test above predict experienced meaningfulness, affective commitment, job insecurity, and burnout.[6]

[1] L. Jiang, T. Tripp & T. Probst. 2017. Being an organizational ‘lynchpin’: Development and validation of the core-versus-peripheral position scale. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 90: 329–353.
[2] G. Salancik & J. Pfeffer. 1974. The bases and uses of power in organizational decision making: The case of a university. Administrative Science Quarterly, 19: 453–473.
[3] D. Hickson, C. Hinings, C. Lee, R. Schneck & J. Pennings. 1971. A strategic contingencies’ theory of intraorganizational power. Administrative Science Quarterly, 16: 216–229.
[4] A. Gall. 1987. How can trainers win turf wars? Training & Development Journal, 41 (6): 28-32.
[5] S. Humphrey, J. Nahrgang & F. Morgeson. 2007. Integrating motivational, social, and contextual work design features: A meta-analytic summary and theoretical extension of the work design literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92: 1332–1356.
[6] L. Jiang, T. Tripp & T. Probst. 2017. Being an organizational ‘lynchpin’: Development and validation of the core-versus-peripheral position scale. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 90: 329–353.