These are feelings and experiences frequently expressed by people when they are in what I call a down-power role. Clients, students, supervisees, employees, patients, and parishioners, among others, are in roles that have less power and influence than their up-power therapists, teachers, supervisors, employers, doctors, and clergy. This greater power is an automatic accompaniment to professional or positional power and, in fact, is embedded in the up-power role. Role power is earned or assigned. Role power is an add-on to the personal power that we all have and need in our lives. Think of it like a scarf or mantle of additional power and responsibility that one puts on when one is in an up-power role. Often without recognizing it, we may move between up- and down-power roles multiple times in a day. At the dentist we are down-power. As a teacher, we are up-power. With a policeman, we are down-power. This power difference, although it has vital functional and emotional value, creates relational dynamics that, when misused, are reflected in the statements above.
Therapist, Supervisor, Teacher, Director, Clergy, Doctor, Policeman: these are the positional power roles that carry an especially strong power difference. The stronger the power difference, the greater the vulnerability and risk for those who are down-power: clients, patients, students, and employees. The strength of the power differential is directly related to the amount of risk.
I use the terminology up-power roles and down-power positions because they are simply directional words, not necessarily evaluative words. By the way, there are other up-power roles in which the power difference is not very great (although still present), or the power difference is temporary--waiter in a restaurant, committee chair, lecturer, a-v person for a conference. Virtually all jobs have some up-power responsibilities for assessment and final decision-making.
Read the rest of the article here.