Power Corrupts – So Does Powerlessness

Rosabeth Moss Kanter points out another reason that the “tone at the top” is only one factor for corporate compliance in Powerlessness Corrupts.

“Power corrupts, as Lord Acton famously said, but so does powerlessness. Though powerlessness might not result in the egregious violations associated with arrogant officials who feel they are above the law, it is corrosive.”

  • Managers spread powerlessness by limiting information.
  • They compound the insult by sneaking unpopular decisions through when they think no one’s looking.
  • Powerlessness burgeons in blame cultures.
  • The powerless retaliate through subtle sabotage. They slow things down by failing to take action
  • Negativity and low aspirations show up in behaviors psychologists call defensive pessimism, learned helplessness, and passive aggression.

Those are a lot of points for targeting the tone at the middle and the tone at the bottom.

Dilbert, being the epitome of powerlessness, captures some of this in today’s strip.