Do You Give Away Your Power at Work? by Tanveer Naseer


Are we giving away our power when we show up at work? It’s a question that came to mind following a thought-provoking conversation I had with Kathy Caprino about a recent piece she had written about tapping into our power to achieve a sense of happiness and fulfilment.

Through our discussion, I began to wonder how many of us experience moments where our knowledge, experiences, and insights tell us that the ideas and plans being put forth are missing key details, but we don’t speak up for fear that others will see us – and not their plan or idea – as being problematic.

Although it might be fear that prevents us from taking action and becoming full participants instead of passive observers, the bigger issue is how in each of these moments we’re giving up our power at work.

Now for many of us, this might sound odd. After all, how much power or influence can I possibly have given my place in the organizational organogram, or how much money I have stashed away in my savings account? Surely those in positions of authority and those among the wealthy class have far more power to wield, and consequently more influence to direct what course my organization or my community might take?

The problem, though, is that it’s not a question of position or wealth. Rather, it’s about recognizing that we need to shift our perception of power from the previous and clearly unsustainable survival-of-the-fittest model, to one that’s based on viewing power in terms of each of us having the means and the ability to contribute meaningfully and to be valued.

This requires that we redefine power beyond the scarcity model of positional power and wealth to a more reflective one where the focus is more on what we bring to the collective table – of how through committing ourselves to do the work we were meant to do we can make a difference and be impactful.

Unfortunately, many of us have been beaten back and pushed to our limits doing work that seems to have little benefit beyond the narrow scope of a few months or even weeks, not to mention a lack of connection to what matters to us.

And so, we end up checking ourselves at the door, leaving behind that inner capability that exists within each of us – the collective talents, experiences and genius that so many organizations desperately need if they are to do more than survive, but thrive in the years ahead.

At the same time, though, we need to understand that by treating power as a scarce commodity that is based on external factors such as our position at work or in our community, we literally take the power out of our own hands because we designate the permission to be able to use our power on factors that are beyond our control.

Certainly, history is replete with examples of people who grew tired of the status quo and elected to use their own power – their gift of words, their inner sense of courage and integrity, even their physical or mental fatigue with the current realities around them – to take what was at first a quiet stand against what is, in favour of what could be. A stand that inevitably rallied those around them who also saw and believed in that vision of what could be, instead of accepting what they experience today.

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