Power tripping is when people advance their own interests at the expense of the common good. The power tripper benefits at the cost of others and the organization by taking advantage of the trust placed in them.
Whether it’s financial gain, perks or an ego boost at another’s expense, power tripping takes a toll. Staff withdraw and disengage when power tripping occurs. They feel disenchanted, angry and, in some cases, copy the behavior.
According to researchers, Katherine DeCelles, at the University of Toronto, Scott DeRue, at the University of Michigan, Joshua Margolis, at Harvard Business School and Tara Ceranic, at the University of San Diego, you can feel powerful without being the manager, or in charge.
For example, one worker felt powerful because she had a specialized knowledge base. As an IT expert, she used her knowledge and expertise to feel superior to others.
There are four ways to handle the power tripper:
If you know of stealing or the misuse of company property, report what you know to your supervisor. You can be anonymous, but let someone know. If it’s the supervisor abusing their position, talk to his or her supervisor.
TALK TO THE OFFENDER
Talking privately with the power tripper can help. For example, the IT expert didn’t realize the effect of her ego-boosting behavior. When a colleague told her that no one wanted to come to ask her a question because of the arrogant response, she changed.
CHECK OTHERS’ MORAL IDENTITY
A sales agent who worked on a team would give leads to his chosen few. When a fellow team member broached the topic, saying the way he referred prospects wasn’t fair, he replied when she made as much money as he did, he’d listen, but until then, she should forget being part of the inner circle.
Knowing that it was a waste of time trying to discuss the issue freed her up to find her own leads.
Discussing how people use power is important. Making staff aware of the tendency to power trip if one isn’t connected to one’s own values or the company’s creed, is key.
If there is a discrepancy between what a staff member values and what the company stands for, that discrepancy should be discussed. So too, should intervening when power trip-ping occurs.
What this lady is saying, doesn’t always work. Your boss may not get the message. I know I was always a rebel but because of my constant upgrades in education, I knew knowledge was power. At the time my boss told me I didn’t know what I was talking about to a client. I, in front of the client told him I did know what I was talking about and if he would pull out X book, it would show I am 100% right. He did. He found out I was right. Now the client may have been more embarrassed than either of us, but the fact is it never happened again and I was able to handle the clients needs as I said I could to begin with.
Karin for the blog.