Q1: Is this an opportunity to exchange currencies as per Cohen and Bradford (1989)?
A1: The situation presented in the example offered by Raelin (2003) would seem to be in conformance with the influence exchange currencies notion introduced by Cohen and Bradford (1989). This concept is predominantly based on the following premise: “the expectation of reciprocal exchanges” between an employee and his/her supervisor/high-ranking manager would lead one party to undertake actions that might be met with reciprocal response on behalf of the other, thus contributing to the formation of interpersonal relationships network. The ‘currencies’ that may be traded within such a network need not be of exclusively monetary or even material character; they may include such forms of exchanges as exchange in “tangible goods; tangible services” and “sentiments” (Cohen & Bradford 1989, pp. 8-9). The key aspect to be considered is whether the benefits offered by one party are reciprocated by the other. In the case presented herein, the currency exchange would involve predominantly sentiment-based currencies.
Q2: Which currencies would be exchanged?
A2: Given the nature of the case mentioned in Raelin (2003), currencies that would be most conducive to the establishment of influence upon the high-ranking manager by his line manager subordinate would belong to a category of the position-related currencies, i.e. the ones connected with the notions of advancement (“giving a task or assignment that can aid in promotion”); recognition (“acknowledging effort, accomplishment, or abilities”); visibility (“providing chance to be known by the higher-ups…in organization); and importance/insiderness (“offering a sense of importance, of “belonging”; Cohen & Bradford 1989, p. 11). Thus, the superior manager would provide his subordinate with a sense of belonging to the inner circle of his associates (in this case, the sports-related one) or give him/her a glimpse of future promotion if the friendly relationship with the higher manager may be maintained for a long time. Meanwhile, the higher manager would receive the currency of task-related nature, such as the one connected with the attainment of the relevant information pertaining to the technical knowledge in playing squash.
Q3: For those interested in playing squash with the boss, under what conditions would you proceed; for example, how would you arrange the game and how hard would you play?
A3: Proceeding from a comprehensive collaboration theory as provided by Wood and Gray (1991), one may infer that, in the course of the game itself, the participants would pursue their varying interests while collaborating on the matters lying within their shared domain of interests. In case of the higher manager rank, this interest would mainly involve the need to increase his competence in the field of squash playing itself. On the other hand, the low-ranked employee would have to demonstrate both his/her superior knowledge and practice of the game to impress the boss and to subtly aim at teaching the latter some of the core playing style features while avoiding excessive display of finesse that may humble his/her superior.
Accordingly, the employee player would be advised to arrange the game in two rounds: the ‘introductory’ one, whereas the boss would be able to test the employee’s strength, and the ‘core’ one, with the main emphasis on the game process itself. In the course of both stages, the style of the more experienced player (i.e. the employee) should be more relaxed and accommodating, so as to make the less experienced, but socially superior, player feel comfortable with the game process.
Q4: What are the drawbacks, from both career and ethical points of view, from engaging with the boss in this way?
A4: From the career perspective, an informal relationship with the superior manager, as a mean of promotion, would lead to deterioration of the employee’s organization-wide image with one’s colleagues resenting the unfair promotion and the newly found favor with the superior (Raelin 2003). Moreover, if the superior manager in question is replaced with the other one, any possible attempt to influence the new boss in the previously efficient manner may backfire, as “overusing what has been successful” (Cohen & Bradford 1989, p. 14) may be one of the most serious problems confronting the subordinates and peers who may wish to influence their superiors/colleagues in an informal way.
From the purely ethical standpoint, the use of informal influence instruments to guarantee one’s promotion would lead to the deterioration of the organizational culture at large (Raelin 2003). The promotion of individuals that are keen to exploit their personal relations with their superiors would undermine the cohesion of the communities in question, as well as to lead to their disruption of trust relationships between their individual members.
Q5: Is there a women’s perspective that may arise from your deliberations?
A5: Saguy (2003) notes that the exchange of employment benefits for the currency of romantic relationship with the employer/superior management may lead to a disruption of the normal workplace dynamics as the boss’s mistress would get the employment privileges refused to her workplace peers. At the same time, the use of romantic relationship as the source of career advancement may be viewed as the factor contributing to the greater emotional cynicism and deterioration of the psyche of a female participant in such a relationship, making its material gains inferior to the psychological self-damage involved.
Q6: What do you conclude about the relationship between power, influence, ethics, and leadership? Use the readings this week to support your answer.
A6: Proceeding from this week’s readings, one may assume that relationships between power, influence, ethics, and leadership are both manifold and straightforward, with the influence making process being dependent on the willingness of the subjects in question to comply with both authority pretences of their superiors and the set of ethical norms associated with the dominant culture of the organization in question (Raelin 2003). Leaders are able to combine and coordinate interactions of their followers as stakeholders of the respective problem domains (Wood & Gray 1991, p. 146). This ability contributes to the process of collaboration between the subjects being in agreement with the ethical values and organizational goals espoused by the former.