Perceptions of Power: A Comparison of Perceptions of the Organizational Power of IT Departments



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There is a gap in the literature concerning personal perceptions of one's own power in organizations. Information Technology (IT) personnel are positioned to be an excellent target group for researching this subject. Status Construction Theory (SCT), Mintzberg's model of organizational structures, and Network Exchange Theory (NET) provide a useful lens for considering the results of this exploratory study. Because power is a widely contested term, a dimensional view of power was used in this study. Twelve indicators of power were identified in the literature and used to create a quantitative survey instrument. Survey participation was solicited online from 350 employees of a small private university in the southwest with a 33% response rate (N=116). In addition, qualitative interviews were conducted with 17 IT professionals and compared with the survey results in a mixed methods approach. The survey did not work as expected. A factorial analysis was used to examine the survey results. However, the factors did not match the twelve power indicators as expected. Also, because of the small sampling size of the survey site, differences between groups were not significant enough for comparison. However, two significant factors did emerge which were interpreted as representing "respect" and "control", indicating that IT personnel at the survey site may be respected for what they do and recognized as having legitimate control of information systems. Even so, these factors of respect and legitimate control do not translate into a perception of significant power advantage for IT. The interview responses supported this conclusion. It was found that for these participants, while IT personnel are in positions to be more powerful members of their organizations, they typically do not seek out or take advantage of such power. The predominant concern for IT, however, was not the exercise of power per se, but rather having the influence to make the organization better. This was evidenced by IT members feeling left out of key decision-making processes. SCT, NET, and Mintzberg's organizational model offer several possibilities for enhancing IT's power and influence by improving their professional status among organizational members.