Whether you are the intern or the CEO navigating power relationships at work is an important skill to have, as power dynamics are often unavoidable and greatly informs the work culture. This skill is especially crucial if you are looking to attain more power in the workplace because the power you wield allows you to accomplish certain tasks. Which can be anything from heading a big project to ensuring that your opinions are heard and acknowledged.
Power can be classified in two categories: formal and informal. Formal power refers to the relational aspect of power dynamics I.e. the power you are accorded by your rank or designation in the company. This is the power you can exert over others i.e. the power you already have. On the other hand, informal power is the influence a person has over other people – the power to guide, inspire and lead others. This is the way people often gain power; largely by earning the respect of their peers and higher-ups.
As such, it is crucial to build up your informal power if you want to gain more power at work and there are three key steps that you can take to increase your influence: understanding your organisation's hierarchy, forming connections and relationships with the people in your company and developing interpersonal skills.
Understanding your organisation's hierarchy and culture
The most basic step is to familiarise yourself with the company culture and organisational chart. This is important as you need to understand how everything is structured and how the decision-making happens. Who do you report to? Who is involved in the decision-making and who approves of the decisions? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you figure out which areas you can work towards building more power. In this step, understanding the company culture is also essential. Does your company have a high power social structure or a low power social structure? Do you have to go through many layers of bureaucracy before your ideas get adopted or does your company allow for a more collaborative approach in which you can just put out your ideas? This also includes understanding the company's values, which will give you a guide to how you can put forth your ideas and build your influence.
Forming connections and relationships
An organisation is made up of its people and just as you can exert power over others, others can also exert power over you. That's why the most essential step in building your informal power is to forge relationships with the people in your
company. These are the people you'd be working with on projects, your higher-ups that you report to, and the people whom you are leading. They are the ones who can vouch for your capabilities, your trustworthiness and provide opportunities for you. In fact, many experts agree that forming relationships with the people in your company is the best way to attain more power in work. Not just with your higher-ups, forming relationships with the people at your level and below you are equally as important. And this brings us to the final step.
Developing interpersonal skills
Having strong interpersonal skills is a crucial step in cultivating meaningful relationships. These skills include communication, conflict management, having empathy etc. In a work setting, there is one skill that will definitely work in your favour and that is knowing your colleagues. Taking the time to understand your colleague's character would help you to identify their strengths and weaknesses and how you all can work together to achieve the company's goals. Furthermore, understanding your audience's character also helps you with communicating with them properly. The way you talk to your colleague may be very different from the way you talk to your boss. As a result, understanding who you are talking to and tailoring your communication to suit their needs will go a long way in helping them reciprocate your opinions and thoughts.