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How to Wield Power to Improve the Workplace

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How to Wield Power to Improve the Workplace



5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How you feel about power has consequences that extend beyond your individual career.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening


Many people think of power in the workplace solely in terms of their personal careers. But, the fact is, those who wield power shape their organizations as a whole, for better or worse. In this episode of NPR’s Invisibilia, host Yowei Shaw speaks with business professors Peter Belmi and Jeffrey Pfeffer, and union organizer Alejo Gonzalez, about how traditional paths to power might discourage marginalized individuals from pursuing leadership roles – and why your comfort level with seeking power matters in ways that transcend your individual circumstances.


Employees from marginalized groups, and those with strong ethics, often feel uncomfortable pursuing positions of power.

Many people – particularly women, people of color and those from less-advantaged backgrounds – experience a clash of values when faced with traditional strategies for obtaining power. Such tactics, while successful, often prove downright Machiavellian. They’re premised on the idea that, as author and professor Jeffrey Pfeffer claims, you have to “take care of yourself” first and foremost. Hard work alone won’t help you get ahead, and he points to research that shows niceness is often a handicap. To get power, you must use everything at your disposal – including deceit and manipulation – to achieve your goals.

As a graduate student, now business professor Peter Belmi felt disheartened by Pfeffer’s take on power. But, Pfeffer’s perspective helped him zero in on a key question that defines his own research: Is it possible that traditional approaches to achieving...

About the Podcast

Yowei Shaw is the co-host and editorial lead of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast. Peter Belmi is the Scott C. Beardsley Associate Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. Alejo Gonzalez is a lead union organizer with SEIU Local 105 in Denver, Colorado.

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