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The power of power consciousness

Power consciousness can enable you and your organization to better understand how and why things work the way they do.

Written by: Josh Levs

You have a quick, cordial interaction with a colleague who works in a different part of your organization. Both of you are helping lead a cross-departmental project, and both have ideas for what the next step should be. After a brief discussion, your colleague agrees that your idea makes more sense. Both of you walk away knowing exactly what to do next. But, unknown to you, your colleague has a starkly different understanding of what just happened. Back at his desk, he feels that most of his week’s work has just gone to waste.

How can that be? In this case, it wasn’t a matter of miscommunication. You both spoke clearly and concisely, listening, smiling, and making eye contact. And the discussion was no big deal — to you. To your colleague, however, it was. He had spent hours exploring different possibilities for how to advance the project, and had a dozen reasons his idea made sense. He didn’t tell you this, though. If he had, you would have evaluated it fairly and quite possibly concluded that his idea was better. Why didn’t he?

The answer lies in his perceptions of you. He has seen your positive interactions with C-suite executives, and senses that you have greater pull in the organization. He assumes that means you also know more about what the organization is aiming to achieve. In his eyes, you have greater power.

Research has found that perceptions of power in the workplace can become a critical factor in determining how people respond to situations. And the power at issue does not necessarily correspond to official hierarchies.

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