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The Hierarchical Abuse of Power in Work Organizations

Donald Vredenburgh and Yael Brender
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 17, No. 12 (Sep., 1998), pp. 1337-1347
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25073966
Page Count: 11
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The Hierarchical Abuse of Power in Work Organizations
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Abstract

Although much theoretical and empirical research has examined organizational power, virtually none has addressed the hierarchical abuse of power in organizations. Managers' incentives and discretion and subordinates' dependencies define the abuse of power as an important organizational issue. This paper offers a conceptualization and process model to help further theoretical and applied understanding, and it considers the ethical nature of power abuse. Two dimensions, disrespect for individual dignity and interference with job performance or deserved rewards, conceptualize the interpersonal abuse of power. Behavioral examples of each dimension are provided. The process model delineates powerholders' motives to abuse power and indicates individual attributes that increase the probability of their pursuing these motives. Organizational conditions that allow or encourage the abuse of power and managers' particular sources of power interact with these motives and attributes to define decisions about abusing power. Norms and considerations of risk influence these decisions. The decision to abuse power leads to the enactment of power strategies, and they generate intended and unintended outcomes. The process model presented here recognizes an emotional component of the hierarchical abuse of power.

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