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  • Writer's pictureSusan & Renée

Managing Power Differentials in the Workplace

Last week we talked about the importance of healthy boundaries in the workplace, specifically when it comes to power differentials between leaders and their subordinates. When these boundaries are mismanaged it has damaging impacts on company culture and subsequently the bottom line.


Unhealthy boundaries around power happen when company leaders overemphasize their power over others. This causes employees to hesitate for fear of ‘poking the bear’ and unleashing the boss’s fury. On the opposite extreme is when leaders try to eliminate the power they have over their subordinates. This is often in an attempt to be liked or included but it leads to confusion and unnecessary chaos.


Thankfully, there is a middle way. According to the professionals at Nash Consulting, leaders can learn to mitigate the power differential. For employees this creates structure, predictability, and feelings of safety and security. The company benefits from improved employee performance and enhanced innovation.


Leaders can adopt the following behaviors to effectively manage the power differential they have over employees:

  • Be approachable. This means being kind, smiling, asking how people are doing, and communicating that you care about them as human beings, not just as workers.

  • Listen in a way that makes employees feel heard. Validate their perspectives and feelings and take their concerns seriously.

  • Be clear with your expectations and available for support.

  • Hold people accountable while also being respectful. Focus your feedback on behaviors, not personal characteristics.

  • Solicit feedback. Receive it graciously and without being defensive.

  • As appropriate, ask for people’s input before making decisions.

  • Be empathetic and recognize that people also have personal lives that are important to them. Let them know you support them having a life outside of work.

  • Ask questions and look for what you can learn from your employees.

  • Remain aware that employees view your behavior through the lens of your authority over them. Model the kindness and professionalism you want them to practice.

Sound easier said than done? That’s because it is!

G2 Solutions can help. Reach out to us if you’d like to learn more.

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