21Feb

Power and Control

I have always written about power and control in the most intimate sense.  For example, watching the dynamics of familial relationships has always fascinated me, including my own.    Contrary to what television portrays, the largest and strongest person is not always in control.  The path to dominance can be somewhat mysterious.

In the absence of dominance, when power and control are questioned, many people will leap forward to try to assert themselves.  Part of what makes people vie for power and control is a need for security.  In the absence of security people can, and often do feel panic.  Fear causes people to try to grasp control in many ways.  Because of our culture of domination, people often use forcefulness to gain control.  Also, because our culture is ostensibly non-violent, forcefulness and dominance, must be subtly communicated.

Subtle communication is a means of creating plausible deniability.  Subtle communication might be a boss stating that job performance is poor, this statement can be threatening enough to force a subordinate into agreement.  By evaluating job performance and NOT addressing the issue of employment, the boss can deny that a threat has occurred.  Humans know this tactic at a very early age, witness any teenager who is being denied, you will see that threatening is part of our social language.

The thing is that threatening may give the threatener a sense of security; but it is a false sense of security.  True power resides with influence and cannot be purchased with control and dominance.  Dominance is a person telling you what to do – within the purview of the job function, threatening you to gain your submission and then telling themselves that they are secure because of their power over others.  While this may be the way that many employers operate, is not an effective means to accomplish goals.  Managers who operate this way are toxic to their organizations.  Control and dominance are inherently temporary and inefficient.  They are temporary and inefficient structures of power because very few people are willing to be within the control of another person, if not treated appropriately or paid well, they will find a way to go somewhere else.  Therefore experience and expertise are constantly at a loss.

For those people who have power and control and use it in the absence of influence, the game of “rightness and wrongness” is a very important game.  People with power and control will use it to gain agreement from subordinates as to the “rightness” of their decision.  This agreement will always be forthcoming from well paid subordinates.  It is the very definition of sycophant.

Those who do chase the agreement of subordinates – perhaps – have some measure of intelligence, because even a very “wrong” thing can be accepted as “right”.  Just look at the concept of groupthink: absence of personal responsibility, and a lack of individual creativity.  The controller decides on the “correct” reality and the threatened sycophants give it energy and life.

In conclusion (ha-ha Mrs. Brownlee [my 4th grade english teacher]): power and control is no more than currency granted by others to you for your temporary use and should never be mistaken for security.  Threatening is a means by which people use their position to maintain control and power over others.  Often, those who threaten, practice subtlety in order to create deniability.  Owning power and control is not special in any way in the course of management.  Having influence over others is a much more effective and efficient means of management.  People often use power and control to gain agreement for their faulty actions because being “right” helps them feel more powerful and secure.

Security is a paradox because the more you chase it, the riskier it is.  To influence, is the very act of being self-secure.

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