August 20th, 2011

How “High MACH” Small Business Owners Abuse Power

Empowering others puts forth the assumption you have power and are in a position to relinquish it or use it to give others the knowledge, tools, and support to carry out their assignments. By owning the company, you do have some power. But it is not necessarily the most effective kind.

Machiavellianism, named after Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Italian philosopher who wrote The Prince, is a term social psychologists use to describe a person’s tendency to deceive and manipulate other people for their personal gain. Their approach to gaining power is “by all means necessary”, which may include lying, cheating, bullying, sabotaging, and even withdrawing from the process. Back in the 60s, Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis developed the MACH-IV personality test to help hiring mangers identify individuals with these unwanted tendencies. But who’s responsible for testing the owner?
For all practical purposes, a Machiavellian owner represents a worst case scenario. Inside the bureaucratic hierarchy of large corporations, there are some checks and balances that prevent a high MACH personality from completely devastating his coworkers. But as a small business owner, he represents the ultimate source of checks and balances, with free reign to devastate the lives of employees as he sees fit. In most instances, the high rate of turnover leaves the owner surrounded by yes-men with limited career options and a willingness to accept the abuse. These reward-oriented workers would never question his conduct or rebel in any way.

Machiavellian owners have power. But this is definitely not the kind of power you want.

Reverent power is the ability to influence others because they identify with and respect you. Reverent power attempts to motivate and inspire rather than control. This inspiration is most effective when managers take the time to know their employees, that is to say, their personal preferences, goals and aspirations.
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