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Survival through expert power.

Survival through expert power

Today's laboratory professional faces a battle for survival. Diminished workload in hospital laboratories, changing treatment patterns and settings, and reevaluation of the types of personnel required for different positions have brought must uncertainty to everyone from pathologist to phlebotomist. To survive, all need a coping strategy, one that understands where power comes from and how to make use of it.

Many people understand power to mean authoritarian management and control. They think of it as a negative, not as a positive force contributing to individual success. It's true that one form of power is coercive and that its use was a standard management approach for years. Threats of dismissal, inhuman working conditions, and total control of workers' lives were commonplace. But unions and strong labor laws have eliminated most of these abuses. A manager who tries to exercise coercive power today is more likely to be fired than the employee.

Several other forms of power have influenced the work place over the years. Reward power waned as many managers found they were not allowed to reward achievement with merit raises. Blanket salary increases and cost of living adjustments became the norm, creating a 9-to-5 mentality and a mediocre work force. That could turn around, however, as hospitals move toward pay-for-performance systems.1

Then there's referrant power, which can best be described as charisma. Individuals with this kind of power are able to lead because cause they draw love and loyalty from their followers. It's not enough, though. For continued success as the organization expands and grows, they must also have sophisticated expertise.

This brings us to expert power --the influence that comes from expertise or having special knowledge that others need. If you are confident that your professional skills are in demand, then you too can exert expert power. The key words are special knowledge and professional skills. They mean administrative expertise when we are talking about managers.

Professional managers usually pass through four career stages:

1. They function primarily as apprentices at entry-level employment. They are involved in helping, learning, and following directions. New technologists, for example, assist supervisors in their duties and learn the basics of supervision.

2. Later on, these employees function independently and are held accountable for their actions.

3. With promotion to supervisory positions, they have responsibility for influencing and guiding other employees' careers.

4. Finally, they become full-fledged managers and have major responsibility for setting the department's direction. At this point, they begin to exercise power.

In the last two stages of development, supervisors and managers develop and solidify their roles and style of management. Analysis of these roles reveals how power can be used to influence, direct, and coordinate activities:

Interpersonal. Supervisors and managers serve as figureheads by representing their departments in various social and legal activities. On the other hand, they are leaders in motivating, guiding, training, and rewarding employees. And they act as liaison with peers, vendors, patients, and higher management.

Informational. They monitor daily operations by seeking and getting information. They then serve as disseminators of the data within and outside the department.

Decision making. They are entrepreneurs looking for new sources of business and better ways to deliver services. They handle disturbances by correcting problems and resolving conflict. And they are negotiators when dealing with employees, suppliers, other departments, and the medical staff.

Management. First and foremost, they are administrators who must process paperwork, monitor policies and procedures, assure compliance with rules and regulations, and develop and administer budgets. If they are to supervise technical work and solve technical problems, they must also be scientists. Finally, they are organizers, assigning tasks, coordinating group activities, and maintaining authority and responsibility relationships.

Increased knowledge and skills in filling these managerial roles will demonstrate your expert power and help you enhance your position. You will also be better able to optimize services and provide a positive work place for your employees.

Expand your knowledge base by seeking new skills and management techniques. Make yourself valuable to employees through your ability to function as a member of the total institutional management team. And remember that you're never too old to learn. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There is no knowledge that is not power.' So start now to develop your expert power base.

1. Barros, A. Viewpoint: The big swing toward pay for performance, MLO 17(12): 17-18, December 1985.
COPYRIGHT 1986 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:hospital laboratories
Author:Barros, Annamarie
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 1, 1986
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