Referent Power sounds like one of those made up terms used by people who want to seem more intelligent. (Is it working so far?) But it is a real source of power in the workplace.
I worked many years ago with a young woman who went out of her way to make people feel welcome and comfortable in the office. She was perpetually cheery, jocular and friendly. She went out of her way to remember birthdays, celebrate successes and turn the office into a family like environment.
She had Referent Power. But we didn’t call it that back in those days. She had what we called Likeability. Everyone liked her.
And that Likeability moved mountains. She could get people to drop what they were doing and bend to her smallest need just in an attempt to please her. That’s the power of Likeability.
The great thing about Referent Power or Likeability is that no one minds it as a source of power (except for people who aren’t likeable.) People might reject Positional Power, dread Coercive Power, or fear Expert Power but they rarely reject Referent Power.
The moral of the story is exactly like your mother told you. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
loved it! 🙂
Could you imagine a workplace where this is the dominant culture? Where everyone invests effort into ensuring that all are welcome and comfortable at work. Where help is given and received, not on an as-needed basis, but on a foundation of respect for each other’s efforts, priorities and roles.
So this is called a Referent Power – but I’ll bet you that most people who have this power don’t even know it, and wouldn’t care if they did. Their investment into their workmates stems from an innate, genuine care for other people. The return on that investment reflects in the extra pride that staff put into their work, and the increased quality of products or services as a result of the invested pride and teamwork.
We’ve all had a shit job once or twice in life and put up with it because we love the people we work with. We’ve all probably had a job that could have been great if it wasn’t for the A-holes that made life difficult for self-gratifying reasons.
I like that today’s focus is on a positive leadership trait. We will always find flaws when we look hard enough for them. Today we will be looking for the good qualities in ourselves and our workmates, and if increasing power is our motivation, then at least it is Referent Power.
It would be lovely if likeability were the dominant culture but work is like family. You can’t pick your relatives and unless you’re the boss, you can’t pick your employees.