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Power - Cults as Organizations

This is a transcript of a bonus episode of the What should I think about..? Podcast. Listen to it here.

Hi, Stephen here. This is a bit of bonus content. So I'm experimenting at the moment with a series called Cults as organizations where I explore organizational psychology and how it relates to Cults. And I thought you might like to hear the audio as a podcast. So please reach out, tell us what you think.

And if you'd like to hear more, thanks on with the podcast. Welcome to Cults as organizations in each of these short presentations, I'm going to explore a model or theory from organizational psychology and compare how it applies to what we might describe as normal organizations or non cultic groups with Cults or high control groups.

And today I'm looking at power. Within organizations, there are complex power relationships throughout, as it relates to the power of the boss, the power of the worker, the business, and so on the manager has power over the subordinates, but the team members also have some power because the manager's performance depends upon their activity.

Power is not always an official thing and can be seen in many subtle ways within any social situation. One of the most well-known power models used in organizational studies is French and Raven's bases of power. This framework recognizes that power takes different forms. So let's have a look at the six types of power.

They identify in organizations, and then I'm going to explore how it can be observed both in a cultic and non cultic organization. The six types of power, legitimate reward, expert reference. Coercive and informational

legitimate power is the power that comes from an acceptance that a person or persons have been given or hold the authority to organize, give direction, set standards, correct deviant behavior, and generally be the person in charge. Within the workplace. This is the type of power that stems from being the manager.

Most people within a workplace will acknowledge that the manager has been given the power to be in charge and will therefore normally comply at least to some degree. This is also the type of power that can be observed in experiments when just by wearing a doctor's white coat and donning a stethoscope, an individual is able to command the subject to do things they may not actually want to do, or because it's believed that the person has the authority within a workplace.

There are normally limits to this. And the manager is likely to get into problems. If they are, seem to be wielding this power unfairly or overstepping, what would it be seen as the limits of their power managers also have their own managers, even the board has to report to the shareholders within a Colt or high control group.

This type of power is very important. With the leader or leaders claiming the ultimate in legitimacy, the authority that comes from the God of the universe or the universe itself. It's hard to top that. So the cult leader becomes unquestionable with literally no limits. This allows the court leader or leaders to state that black is white and white is black.

That punishment is love or that killing is righteous. Because they have this ultimate legitimacy, nothing can be questioned and statements that are clearly nonsense or lies are accepted as the truth. Even if that truth changes regularly, reward power comes from a situation where one person has the ability or resources to reward another person.

This can be a somewhat transactional relationship. And he's one that is seen in the world. By fulfilling certain tasks to the required standard. The employee is rewarded through that salary. Maybe bonuses are available. Of course, it's not always financial rewards. The reward could be recognition or praise or increased status.

This type of power only works though. When the individual believes that the person claiming to be able to reward the other is actually capable of delivering. The moment. This is doubt it. The amount of power is reduced managers who consistently renege on their promises, reduce the reward power they have available over their teams within a corporate relationship.

The leader may promise quite literally the world or paradise, everlasting life, peace and happiness, all your heart's desire. This is often the power that attracts new recruits to a call to a high control group. It's vital that the court leader convinces the follower that they have the wherewithal to make good on this reward.

But of course, given the unrealistic nature of these promise rewards, there is likely to be attention here. That means the leader must fall upon a different form of power.

Coercive power is where the leader is able to punish or discipline followers for non-compliance like reward power. His strength is related to the amount of people. Believe the leader is able or willing to make good on the promise. Unscrupulous leaders therefore may feel the need to make an example of someone to demonstrate that they will take no nonsense and they'll come down hard on anyone who disappears.

Within the workplace, this type of punishment might be in the shape of formal warnings, potentially leading to dismissal or the removal of certain benefits within the business setting. Most countries have strong laws to prevent an abuse of this type of power and bullying in the workplace is not seen as accepted.

As I've already mentioned because of the inability for a cult leader to actually ever deliver on their promises. Coercive power may be the go-to option for them once the culty relationship matures. So I'm extreme cults punished through beatings, removal of food, solitary confinement, hard labor, et cetera.

Often high control groups punished through public shaming, the removal of privileges, the removal of the love and support of the group. The disconnection of association from family members and friends, and through ultimately the threat of divine punishment to be meted out later by God.

Expert power comes from the recognition that an individual has expertise that is valuable and valued within most non-kinetic organizations, this type of power, maybe held by anyone in the team. There may be individuals within the team with many years experience of a particular skillset. That means their opinions are highly respected.

They may give advice about what actions should be taken. And that is very likely to be followed or those including the manager defer to their opinion. And so they hold a position of unofficial power within the team or organization within a cultic group. However, although there may be some hierarchy through which some members are more respected than others, the leader or leaders enjoy unparalleled levels of experts.

Any expertise an individual might demonstrate is merely as a conduit through which the leader's instructions are coming. The leader is the experts at everything. Their knowledge cannot be challenged. If on occasion they are challenged. They may well resort to coercive power, to snuff out any sign of individual thinking.

Individual thinking is not encouraged and maybe forbid. Instead followers are urged to wait for the leader or leaders to shed light. On the matter at the proper time reference power is the sort of power someone enjoys who through their perceived goodness or admirable qualities, encourages feelings of loyalty and desire to work for them.

Within the workplace. This can be personified in the manager who is generous with their time and attention, a good listener who doesn't bark orders, but demonstrates care and respect for the team. They put themselves out for the team and support them in any way they can. But this type of power is not restricted to the money.

Team members may also demonstrate these qualities so that other members of the team will support and help them. And the knowledge that this may be reciprocated, I would describe true charisma as being able to wield such positive power within a call to a high control group. It may seem during the recruitment phase that this type of power is dominant, new recruits are often live bond and made to feel they are.

Once in the group, the mask may slip and the real form of power switches to coercive power, or is based upon claims to legitimate power. Now, at this point, fear can be the motivator, however, like any bully, occasional glimpses of the warmth of the love of the leader can remind the follower to fall in love with them all over again.

Informational power means having control of the flow of information. Within the workplace, the person with access to information has an advantage. Businesses, want information about performance, early warning of problems, information about the marketplace, about competitors and so on within high control groups, this type of power is particularly important.

The leaders control or train its members to control their own access to any information that does not align with the leader's message. The leader may hold information about them. We strictures upon internet usage, reading books, watching films, listening to ideas that cut across the truth as revealed by the leader are forbidden or discouraged.

For some groups this has done by physically removing the followers from the community and restricting access to the internet or other sources of information for others. The indoctrination creates a prison of the mind, which means that individuals fear doing any independent research at the same time as restricting information.

From the outside, even information about the cruelty itself is restricted. So the rank and file are kept in the dark about what is really happening secrets or confidential information is head into the everyday follower, only accessed by an elite few. So just through this very brief review of French and Raven's power bases, we can see the differences between what we might call a normal or non-kinetic organization and the team.

In most organizations, power bases are distributed throughout the organization. Yes. There may be a hierarchy when it comes to the legitimate power, but others in the organization balance this out, perhaps through expert power or reference power for totalitarian high control groups. All the power is held by the leader or leader.

There may be some delegation and necessity when the organization grows to a certain size, but they effectively lock in all of these power bases, all power stems from and is authorized by the leader. Or leaders who ultimately claim a divine or supernatural source of their power. Thank you for listening and watching Cults as organizations for more about Cults and the experience of leaving them.

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