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French and Raven’s Five Bases of Social Power

French and Raven’s five bases of social power have been widely used in organizations to achieve results or compliance among the employees. These powers influence the employee’s behaviors hence affecting the organization. Managers apply these powers to motivate and exercise their authority over their subordinates. Different organizations apply reward, coercive, legitimate, referent, and experts power depending on the structure and norms.

Coercive power usage has a different effect on organizations. In the organization, the manager uses threats and punishment as a way of ensuring that employees comply with set rules and regulations (Chapman & Scouller, 2018). In addition, the manager controls these threats and punishments such as firing, disapproval, criticism, and negative remarks. When used effectively by the manager, this power ensures compliance among the employee to avoid relaxation and comfortability while at work (Chapman & Scouller, 2018). When abused this power can result in resistance in the performance of the duties.

Reward power is widely used in exercising influence. In the organization, the manager gives benefits and offers such as gifts, promotions, and praises to employees for doing what is expected of them (Chapman & Scouller, 2018). It acts as a motivation and has a positive effect on the organization. Reward power is used effectively to boost the morale of the employees and encourage those who are lazy to put more effort (Chapman & Scouller, 2018). The ability to compensate the manager for work done creates trust in the organization that results in commitment among the employees.

Legitimate power is applied in the organization by the leaders in the course of exercising their control (Chapman & Scouller, 2018). It comes from being elected, selected, or appointed in the position of authority depending on the organization’s structure. Leaders in the organization apply this power in delegating tasks, setting rules of the workplace, and hiring and firing employees. It is used effectively by the manager and other leaders to increase performance hence achieving the desired outcome (Chapman & Scouller, 2018). Legitimate power creates a minimal level of compliance on some of the employees while for others it brings about the feeling of resistance depending on how the managers apply it.

Expert power has a level of influence in the organization. In the organization, one level of knowledge, experience, special skills, or talents creates recognition and influence among other employees(Kovach,2020). Employees can trust your decisions and judgment on various issues due to your expertise and can accept guidance. It is applied effectively by technicians and other groups and contributes significantly to the success of the organization(Kovach,2020). Expert power may result in the commitment of the experts because of the need for those skills.

Referent power has different impacts on the organization. When the manager is admired and respected by the employees based on his characteristics and traits this has a wide influence on them(Kovach,2020). In addition, it creates a source of admiration, as they’re able to identify themselves with the leader. In the organization, the manager uses this power to unite and promote overall productivity among the employees(Kovach,2020). Referent powers result in unquestioning trust, compliance, and commitment among the employee as the manager acts as a good role model.

In conclusion, different organizations apply different social powers to influence the employees and can bring about positive and negative results. Based on the power used, the managers may motivate or demotivate the employees and this has a great impact on the overall performance and work productivity of the organization.


Chapman, A., & Scouller, J. (2018). Sources of Leadership Power – French and Raven. Retrieved 9 April 2022, from

Kovach, M. (2020). Leader Influence: A Research Review of French & Raven’s (1959) Power Dynamics. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership13(2), 15.


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