The influence of power on prosocial behavior
The familiar quote that ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’, is a commentary on the negative relationship between power and what scientists call “prosocial behaviour” – that is, taking action above and beyond one’s duties for the good of the team or the community to which one belongs. Marius van Dijke recently published new research that questions this quote. His research shows that to understand the complexities involved in the effects of power on prosocial behavior, it is necessary to distinguish one’s structural position from one’s personally sensed power. These two types of power distinctly influence prosocial responses to organizational justice. His research shows that feeling powerful (rather than powerless) makes organization members respond to organizational justice with prosocial behavior. However, actually being in a low (rather than high) hierarchical position makes members more likely to act prosocially in response to organizational justice. In sum, power acts as a catalyst, allowing effective responses to organizational conditions that are intended to promote prosocial behavior. However, whether it’s high or low power that facilitates such responses depends on the type of power that one looks at. These findings have important managerial and scientific implications.
The following link (https://repub.eur.nl/pub/105615) takes you to an interview about this research in RSM discovery, which details this research and its implications. The following link (http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-42044-001) takes you directly to the scientific paper, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.”