Original Research

Resistance: Faces of power and how identity is reflected

Natasha Winkler-Titus, Anne Crafford
South African Journal of Business Management | Vol 53, No 1 | a3089 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajbm.v53i1.3089 | © 2022 Natasha Winkler-Titus, Anne Crafford | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 December 2021 | Published: 26 September 2022

About the author(s)

Natasha Winkler-Titus, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Business School, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town,, South Africa
Anne Crafford, Department of Human Resources Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Purpose: Burn to be heard, #Blacklivesmatter, #COVID-19. These slogans have sharpened society’s focus on inequality and resistance to injustice. Power in organisational management literature has predominantly been confined to power dynamics related to organisational structure or hierarchy and applying an identity lens has been limited to subjective forms of power. This study applied the typology of Fleming and Spicer, who identified four forms or faces of power, explaining resistance and articulating forms of potentially hidden disenfranchisement. The research aimed to expand on Fleming and Spicer’s discourse on power in organisations and resistance against this power.

Design: The explorative nature of the research question called for the application of an interpretive lens – through qualitative research – using the grounded theory approach in a case study design. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with stakeholders involved in the process we set out to explore.

Findings: It was found that domineering power-constrained people and a subjectified identity led to a state of patiency. Through a collective identity and discursive resistance, manipulation gave rise to coercion.

Practical implications: Understanding how systemic as well as episodic forms of power are present in the organisation and experienced by different stakeholders will help leaders avoid negative unintended consequences of power and potential marginalisation.

Value: Fleming and Spicer described systemic and episodic dynamics as two broad constructs of power but questioned how and why one dimension may dominate the other. By explicating the interplay between power and resistance, through an identity lens, this study explains how different forms of power are effective at different times.


resistance; power; collective identity; patiency; episodic power, systemic power


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