DEALING WITH ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICS
By Aurangzeb Soharwardi
The concept of organizational politics in business world has gained a significant importance over the years. It has become a proven fact that politics will always be a part of organizations so long as people are involved. Organizations that are overrun with politics, however, will sooner or later take their place among the also-rans. Political decisions encourage hypocrisy, secrecy, deal making, rumors, power brokers, self-interests, image building, self-promotion, and cliques — not a receipt for effective teamwork. It is defined as, The pursuit of individual agendas and self-interest in an organization without regard to their effect on the organization’s efforts to achieve its goals. It is further elaborated as the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to obtain sanctioned ends through non-sanctioned means. The important point to emphasize about organizational politics is the legitimacy of both the outcomes and the methods used to achieve them. Politics in organizations are generally regarded as pervasive, necessary for normal business functioning, and a simple fact of organizational life (Ferris et al., 1996b; Greenberg and Baron, 1995; Pfeffer, 1981; Pinto, 1997; Vigoda-Gadot et al., 2003; Williams and Dutton, 2000). Organizational politics are ubiquitous and considered necessary for normal business functioning (Pfeffer, 1981; Pinto, 1997); however, in the scientific literature there are differing notions (e.g., Allen et al., 1979; Bacharach and Lawler, 1980; Mintzberg, 1983; Pettigrew, 1973; Porter et al., 1981; Tushman, 1977) of what constitutes organizational politics The organizations have to lay special emphasis on this aspect to reengineer their processes and revamp the structure of organizational culture ,which may help in fostering positive politics and enable it to thrive.
CONCEPT, STRUCTURE AND INTRICACIES OF ORG POLITICS
According to Cropanzano et al. (1997), a workplace can be conceptualized as a social marketplace in which individuals engage in transactions, all seeking to earn a return on their investments. The possibility of receiving a favorable return on one’s investment is contingent on the extent to which organizational rewards are perceived to be fairly allocated. Two constructs which are germane to the allocative process are perceptions of organizational politics and organizational justice particularly, procedural justice (Aryee et al. 2004). According to the Organizational Communication, Perspectives and Trends text book, communication is known as “a process of creating shared meaning through the use of signs and symbols” (Papa, M.J., Daniels, T.D. & Spiker. B.K., p. 3). To better help understand organizations, we might consider them as political systems. Politics help to recognize or even reconcile competing interests within an organization. Essentially, all employees bring their own interests, desires, wants, and needs to the workplace which leads to a diversity of interests in which politics form. Politics in an organization are viewed as both negative and positive. Everyone practices politics in some form or in some degree in an organization but viewing politics positively are considered to have a positive force within the organization. Relationships, norms, processes, performance and outcomes are all enormously affected and influenced by organizational politics because they are all intertwined into the management system. As we know, communication within an organization is the key element to success and achievement. A leader is an individual who should consider communication to be the most important aspect in their relationship within the organization. An employee and their leader need a high communication percentage in order to maintain success and achieve specific goals within the organization. According to Sona Hathi, “Leaders should encourage frequent, consistent, and clear communications to eliminate ambiguity, uncertainty, and politics” (Hath, 2). This portrays the idea that politics within an organization can be highly effected if the leader isn’t willing to fully communicate with employees. It is extremely important for leaders to understand as well as utilize the political environment in any company to increase the organizational outcome and levels of satisfaction of the people. Organizational politics can influence the relationship between the leader and employee further leading to the development and success of each and every organization. Employees, as well as leaders, use politics to promote their self-interests, compete for power and leadership, and build personal physique. In any organization, or group, each and every individual is willing to defend for themselves before defending for the group as a whole. This can happen in any situation, at any time. Politically motivated behaviors are “activities that are not required as a part of one’s formal role in the organization, but that influence, or attempt to influence, the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within the organization” (Farrell and Peterson, 1982, p. 405). For example, in any organization, upward and downward communication is used to communicate messages through employees and different levels of the hierarchy. In order to communicate effectively, individuals need to be willing to use the proper way of distributing information by encoding and decoding messages correctly. In any case, an individual may be willing to communicate messages incorrectly in order to protect their image, state of power, or control. “Organizational members engage in strategic message encoding/decoding for purposes of protecting their ego, enhancing their image, or increasing the probably of receiving favorable treatment” (Sussman, L., Adams, A., Kuzmits, F. & Raho, L., p. 317). the organizational politics being represented in this type of communication can highly affect the organization in many different ways. According to Mayes and Allen, “organizations are political coalitions in which decisions are made and goals are set by bargaining processes” (Mayes, B.T., & Allen, R.W., p. 672). This contributes to the idea that any organization sets goals and makes decisions by the group of people within the organization rather than by each individual. The idea of power is contributed within the organization whether it is individually or within the entire group.
PERCEPTIONS OF ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICS
Organizational politics have been defined as “actions by individuals which are directed toward the goal of furthering their own self interests without regard for the well-being of others or their organization” (Kacmar and Baron 1999, p. 4). Research suggests that perceptions of organizational politics consistently result in negative outcomes for individuals (Harris, Andrews, and Kacmar 2007). According to Harris and Kacmar (2005), politics has been conceptualized as a stressor in the workplace because it leads to increased stress and/or strain reactions. Members of organization react physically and psychologically to perceptions of organizational politics, physical reactions including fatigue and somatic tension (Cropanzano et al. 1997), and psychological reactions include reduced commitment (Vigoda 2000) and reduced job satisfaction (Bozeman et al. 2001).
Included in the topic of organizational politics is the concept of workplace participation, which Cheney (1995) refers to as “the relationship between participation inside and outside the workplace” as well as in politics (p. 187). The concept of workplace does not solely refer to transforming labor into products and services, but it is also a place where people may socialize, form interpersonal relations that are not limited to labor contracts, and perform certain rights and rituals together (Jian & Jeffres, 2008). This social work setting is known as work community. Work community’s existence is endorsed by social support, emotion, and learning in organizations, among other things (Brown & Duguid, 1991). Events such as birthdays, holidays, and celebrations of successes provide opportunities in which common values and identity arise. Social rules of the work community are based on informal interactions and agreements as the foundations of a community. Workplace participation can be broken down into two dimensions: job autonomy and decision involvement (Jian & Jeffres, 2008, p. 38). Peterson (1992) identifies job autonomy as “one’s level of control in accomplishing one’s own job on a daily basis” (p. 515). Decision involvement refers to how much say one has in the decision-making process of a work organization (Jian & Jeffres, 2008). Both the political spillover theory and internal political efficacy are positively related to workplace participation.
Political Spillover Theory and Internal Political Efficacy
In order to determine the relationship between workplace participation and political involvement, it is important to understand what constitutes the political spillover theory, as well as internal political efficacy (IPE), both developed by Carole Pateman in 1970 (Jian & Jeffres, 2008). According to the political spillover theory, “one’s experience of participation in the workplace will influence his or her participation in a democratic political system outside of the workplace” (Jian & Jeffres, 2008, p. 37). In regards to politics outside of the workplace, participation consists of behaviors such as community involvement, political voting, and participation in political party and campaign activities in a democratic political system (Greenberg, Grunberg, & Daniel, 1996). In terms of internal political efficacy, Acock, Clark, & Stewart (1985) acknowledged two types: internal efficacy and external efficacy. Internal efficacy “indicates individuals’ self-perceptions that they are capable of understanding politics and competent enough to participate in political acts such as voting” (p. 1,064). External efficacy, on the other hand, “measures expressed beliefs about political institutions,” in that political parties are only interested in votes of people and not in their opinions (Acock et al., 1985, p. 1,064). While external political efficacy shares no relation to workplace participation, IPE and political participation have been directly associated with workplace participation (Jian & Jeffres, 2008). Referring back to workplace participation, Pateman (1970 explained job autonomy and decision involvement at work as the most significant contributors to the development of an individual’s IPE, which then positively influences political participation (Pateman, 1970). Higher levels of job autonomy and participation in decision making at work increase the sense of being able to control work and its environment, which translates into a sense of political effectiveness (Jian & Jeffres, 2008). Stemming from this relationship, IPE therefore leads to increased political participation. Political Activities may be classified by political outcomes and political methods. Political methods may be divided into organizational approval and organizational disapproval. Political outcomes may be positive or negative. These classifications can result in the following:
|Approved methods and approved outcomes||Used to achieve sanctioned outcomes.||Product development agrees to speed up production of a prototype because marketing has learned that a competitor is ahead in its product development activity.|
|Approved methods and unapproved outcomes||Organization’s rules are followed to achieve organizationally undesirable outcomes.||Manager covers up the drug addiction of a subordinate by giving him an overseas assignment.|
|Unapproved methods and approved outcomes||Pursuit of valued outcomes by using questionable methods.||Production Unit might hoard supplies, or order excessive amounts of raw materials, to ensure steady production operations.|
|Unapproved methods and unapproved outcomes.||Most flagrant form of political activity in organizations.||Inside trader’s shifts funds in his personal portfolio to purchase stock in a company which is the target of a secret take-over bid.|
How Managers Play Politics:
|1. Whistle-Blowing||Goes to authority bypasses the organizational hierarchy of authority.|
|2. Line versus staff Conflict||Withhold information, gaining access to executives, building better images, and increasing centrality.|
|3. Sponsorship and coalition-building||Attaching to someone with power.|
|4. Insurgency or resisting authority||‘Following the letter of the law’ or interpreting and enforcing policies in a manner unintended by management.|
Abstract: Investigations into Organizational Politics: 1974-2006 In total ~11,000 people have been subjects. The major focus is on its nature, structure, and dynamics, particularly the personal success attributes related to dealing with politics. Other themes focused upon the intersection of organizational politics and leadership, effects of politics on innovation and systemic sources of political behavior. The heart of these investigations was two key organizational studies which when combined contained ~ 6900 subjects in 9 organizations across multiple industries. Sponsors in the organizations aimed at creating a subject pool representing a microcosm of their company. Each core study had, at minimum, the following elements: a.) subjects nominated by co-workers, b.) multi rater criteria: each subject had at least three raters who knew the subject, c.) interviews of subjects and raters, d.) internal personnel data: e.g., demographics, performance, and promotion data were linked to subject interview data, e.) dialogue data: compiled after subjects received feedback of the study results, and f.) longitudinal data: biannual follow ups for up to twenty years. Additional sources of subjects resulted from an intervention derived from the two core studies. The major findings of these two core studies related to the definition, structure, sources, levels, and personal attributes in different structural groupings. The somewhat unexpected definition that emerged was asymmetrical in terms of positive and negative politics. The major structural groupings for subjects that emerged were the ‘avoiding politics’ group: ~65-80% (this group had three discernable subgroups),‘negative politics’ group: ~15-25% and‘positive politics’ group: ~5-10% of subjects. While people move in and out of the groups. The group structure remained fairly stable. Main attributes of each group were compiled in categories of mindset, behaviors, and success factors. The most significant mindset difference was the ‘rational systems’ view of the avoidance group and the ‘human systems’ view of the two active political groups. There was also a major mindset difference between the two active political groups. There was the win-lose, non ethical, upward focus, self interest, competitive, personal gain mindset of the negative politics group, versus the win-win, ethical, organization focus, enlightened self interest, collaborative, best interests of the business mindset of the positive politics group. In terms of behavioral differences, major ones included the high networking and constant small risking taking of the positive politics group versus the relatively low networking and risk avoidance of both other groups. The positive politics group had the higher innovation success rates and higher success factor indicators in terms of performance, and promotion. They were more likely to be viewed as leaders than the other two groups. There were not any major distinguishing factors between the positive politics group and the avoidance group in terms of personality, interpersonal skill, and intelligence. Positive politics seemed to be an ability possessed by most people. Negative politics did seem to involve an interpersonal skill in terms of manipulative skills such as of impression management in influencing both how they were perceived and how potential rivals were perceived. Several systemic sources giving rise to organization politics emerged. The most embedded was internal competition resulting from functional or divisional sub optimization. The common practice of allocating goals when resources and highly valued rewards are scarce was seen as the key impetus for the sub optimization and resulting internal competition. Other systematic sources included generational dynamics and cultural or informal organization misalignment with the official hierarchy. All together the result is an organization where much of the energy is going into internal friction rather than serving clients and shareholders. The dominant rational systems paradigm operating as a rational meritocracy is both expected by employees and supported by the organisation ’Officially’ politics is considered dysfunctional and in most organizations politics doesn’t officially exist. Yet, the practical limitations of the rational systems paradigm actually acted as a major factor in creating the existence, structure, sources, and dynamics of organizational politics that organizations are trying to avoid. Given the unanticipated finding that most people already seemed to possess the basic ability to practice positive politics but didn’t use it, an intervention was crafted to embody the key findings of these investigations. It was tested with over 10,000 people; ~3200 of these participated in follow up impact studies. Results indicate that ~ 70% of avoidance group members shifted toward the positive politics mindset with that number declining to where it stabilized at ~30% after about five years, which is about triple the normal percentage of active political savvy workers.Based on the results of these investigations, a theory of organizational politics is proposed and is in a separate document. It ends with a more functional view of organizational politics and the steps that organizations can take to attain it.
Dirty Politics vs. Political Savvy
How to do Organizational Politics the Right Way!
There certainly is a dirty side to office politics with brown-nosing, backstabbing, glory-hogging and outright lying can usually be found somewhere in most offices. The key to a successful career is to maintain a good reputation and maintain your integrity while building relationships. One of the underlying ideas behind the Political Savvy Advantage™ is that it’s about moving from a self interest to an enlightened self interest perspective. You want to build your reputation in the organization as a fair and decent player that looks for win-win solutions benefiting the organization overall. Self interest is much more short term: You hit me, and I’ll hit you back. What gives office politics a bad name is employees thinking that only the dishonest, backstabbing, conniving managers will succeed. There are a lot of really good, decent, frustrated people who are stuck. The only people they see doing the influence stuff are the Machiavellian shark types. (Machiavelli, was the one who argued that rulers should have a reputation for being stingy, know how to be deceitful, and have no mercy for the weak or inactive players … Haven’t we all had bosses who demonstrate those qualifications?) But Machs won’t survive for long if workers with integrity enter the political arena as well. It’s hard for a Mach to challenge a politically savvy individual. For the most part, Machs are out for themselves, so their networks are often not that large. A politically savvy person with a good reputation lower down can outmaneuver a Machiavellian. Most organizations try to build relationships with their clients, Political savvy individuals build relationships all around them. Successfully playing office politics requires you to join a group — sign up with a party, basically. (Although your officemates would probably not appreciate being referred to as Whig or Bull Moose.) If you’re trying to get something done in the office, you need to be able to go to co-workers as well as people elsewhere in the organization on an informal basis. Politically savvy individuals are as comfortable working in the informal organization as well as the formal hierarchy. You don’t need to brown nose or do anything you are not interested in, like going to your bosses kids concert, most people have enough diverse interests that we can make that connection at work and beyond with comfort and integrity. An important tip is that administrative professionals represent one of the most powerful sources of information and influence for anyone wanting to have the impact of those considered to be politically savvy. Organization Politics is just like any other form of politics: People who can be trusted tend to do better, at least in the long run, than those who cut corners. The higher your reputation, the more influence you have in the organization. People want to work for those that are seen as ethical players, because that’s where their careers lie. If you’re going to have integrity and form strong relationships, you have to use your political relationships for the good of the company, not for your own benefit. The more you’re seen as operating ethically, the more your word is your bond, the more people can count on you. The idea is not to be about your career. Be about something the organization cares about. Most of the time if you work to make your boss successful your team and organization will have success. The way that you get valued is to really be committed to being part of a team, and build strong relationships. Again, enlightened self interest is a better way to win the sweeter life by being known as a fair player, to have a better reputation, to have my idea accepted instead of yours and get promoted.DEFINING AND MEASURING PERCEPTIONS OF ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICS Most organizational researchers agree that perceived organizational politics may be described as the perception of intentional actions, sometimes performed at the expense of others, that are either covertly or overtly performed in an effort to advance one’s position (Allen et al., 1979; Andrews and Kacmar, 2001; Ferris and Kacmar, 1992; Kacmar and Baron, 1999; Kacmar and Ferris, 1991). Ferris et al., (1989) suggest that organizational politics is a social influence process in which behavior is strategically designed to maximize long-term and short-term self-interest, that is either consistent with or in opposition to others’ interests. Such self-interest maximization includes the prevention of negative outcomes and the attainment of positive outcomes. Adams et al. (2002) suggest that even though political behavior may have positive outcomes, employees’ perceptions of politics are nearly always negative. In an effort to understand the nature of perceptions of organizational politics in the workplace, Kacmar and Ferris (1991) published a measure known as POPS. Its popularity and promising empirical support have generated many evaluations of the components of the theoretical model of organizational politics put forth by Ferris et al. (1989), providing valuable insight into the antecedents and consequences of politics in organizational settings. Ample empirical evidence exists that politics can be conceived of negatively and that political perceptions have moderately strong relationships with key workplace outcomes (Miller et al., 2008). To understand the politics perceptions construct, a basic understanding of the development of instruments used to measure it is helpful. The first effort to develop a measure of perceptions of organizational politics was documented in an unpublished study by Ferris and Kacmar (1989). This instrument was comprised of five items and was not widely used by researchers. Nevertheless, the scale provided a foundation for subsequent construct validation efforts, which were launched with the first published version of POPS by Kacmar and Ferris (1991). Scale development efforts began with two overlapping sets of 31 and 40 items and exploratory factor analyses narrowed the scale to 12 items. Examples of items include: “Favoritism not merit gets people ahead” and “Don’t speak up for fear of retaliation” (Kacmar and Ferris, 1991: 203). In the second published version of POPS, Ferris and Kacmar (1992) re-factor-analyzed the original set of 31 items from the Kacmar and Ferris (1991) scale. This effort resulted in a 22-item scale. Examples of items include: “Managers in this organization often use the selection system to hire only people that can help them in their future or who see things the way they do” and “Connections with other departments are very helpful when it comes time to call in a favor” (Ferris and Kacmar, 1992: 108). To converge on the use of a single scale, Kacmar and Carlson (1997) examined the 12-item version of POPS (Kacmar and Ferris, 1991) using structural equation modeling in a three-phase study utilizing seven independent samples* They discarded under-performing items and wrote additional scale items determined to be more representative of organizational politics than what they discarded* This third published effort at measuring political perceptions resulted in a 15-item version of the scale. Examples of items include: “People in this organization attempt to build themselves up by tearing others down” and “None of the raises I have received are consistent with the policies on how raises should be determined” (Kacmar and Carlson, 1997: 651). This most recent version of the measure has begun to receive widespread use (e.g., Rosen et al., 2006; Treadway, Ferris et al., 2005). However, each of the three main measures of political perceptions continues to be regularly used in empirical research* Lastly, these scales designed to measure perceptions of organizational politics were each designed to be used with a five- or seven-point Likert response format. Two qualitative reviews (Ferris et al., 2002; Kacmar and Baron, 1999) of POPS validation efforts suggest that evidence of discriminant validity indeed exists for the relationship between organizational politics and similar constructs (e.g., POS: perceived organizational support, distributive and procedural justice), but there is some disagreement over the nature and magnitude of the results. With the difference of opinion (e.g., Andrews and Kacmar, 2001; Cropanzano et al., 1997; Nye and Witt, 1993) regarding the discriminant validity between political perceptions, POS, and justice, Ferris et al. stated that “we desperately need to establish a … psychometrically-sound measurement instrument to assess (perceptions of organizational politics)” (2002: 187) and suggested that the Kacmar and Carlson’s (1997) version of POPS might lead to a coalescence of opinion regarding the measurement of political perceptions. To examine the factors contributing to variability in the measurement of reliability for scores on POPS, we followed the RG procedures described by Henson and Thompson (2002) and Vacha-Haase et al. (2002). 123oye.comUNDERSTANDING OFFICE POLITICSWorkplace politics is not new, particularly in countries like India and tragedy is that most of the time “HR Department” is a center of such activities. Anyone who has ever had any job, anywhere, knows that the dynamics among those who are part of the work environment play an important part in how a business is run. Apparently office politics is an increasing problem according to a study by Accountemps. “Eighteen percent of an administrator’s time — more than nine weeks out of every year — is spent resolving conflicts among employees” (“Surviving Office Politics.” Talent Scout. April 16, 1998). Besides causing problems for the individuals who work together, the end result can be far more devastating. Employees and managers who must concentrate on the political aspects of work may have less time to pay attention their jobs. This translates into financial loss, which may in turn translate into job loss. Office politics is something most people recognize when they see it in action, but find difficult to define. “Office Politics: Do You Play or Pass” defines it as “…the use and misuse of power in the workplace” (Alesko, Michael. “Office Politics: Do You Play or Pass,” Today’s Careers).
Avoiding Office Politics
Yesterday, as I was interacting with one of the senior guy in one of the well known company in Bangalore, as per his suggestions, if you cannot avoid work-place politics, we a part of it. Well, that was really shocking. My point is very clear:
If you don’t know the problem; you are INNOCENT. If you know the problem, but don’t know the solution; you are IGNORANT. If you know the problem, you know the solution, but you don’t want to use or implement; you are a CULPRIT. Like every problem, there is a solution to workplace politics as well, provided you want to be fair in your dealings. To reduce the impact of politics in your organization, consider the following:
Stress Performance. Rewards must be earned –not granted in return for favors. Base promotions, assignments and pay increases on performance. This implies that you must develop a reliable basis for measuring performance. Accept recommendations based upon their merits — not on whether you personally like persons making the recommendations. Reject recommendations because they are unsound — not because persons making the recommendations have a history of fighting your proposals. Communicate everything. Secrets keep organizations sick. Open communication about promotions, new plans, changes, and bad news – anything that affects the workplace — makes it hard for rumor and innuendo to thrive. Managers who fully explain their decisions help immunize their culture against deal making and favoritism. “It is sometimes tempting,” said a manager, “to make a deal with the devil. To tell you the truth, I’ve thought about buying off the leader of the opposition by offering her a good promotion.” Of course the long-run result of a deal with the devil is the loss of your soul. Another leader reported, “I knew he was not the best qualified, but I can depend on him to support me and to do what I ask him to do.”Such political decisions by the leaders crush teamwork and commitment to the overall good.
A short list for reducing politics is:
2.Pay off on performance.
3.Publicize performance data.
4.Reveal the reasons for decisions.
5.Openly consider all good ideas.
6.Shun deal making.
7.Do not enter into secret deals.
8.Avoid all political behavior.
POWER IN ORGANIZATIONS
THE CONCEPTS OF POWER AND ORGANIZATIONAL POLITICS.
John Gardner, writing about leadership and power in organizations, notes, “Of course leaders are preoccupied with power! The significant questions are: What means do they use to gain it? How much do they exercise it?” To what ends do they exercise it? He further states, “Power is the basic energy needed to initiate and sustain action or, to put it another way, the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.” In a similar vein, Richard Nixon wrote, “The great leader needs . . . the capacity to achieve. . . . Power is the opportunity to build, to create, to nudge history in a different direction.” Dahl writing about the pervasiveness of the concept of power states, “The concept of power is as ancient and ubiquitous as any that social theory can boast.” He defined power “as a relation among social actors in which one actor A, can get another social actor B, to do something that B would not otherwise have done.” Hence, power is recognized as “the ability of those who possess power to bring about the outcomes they desire” (Salancik and Pfeffer 1977). The concept of organizational politics can be linked to Harold Lasswell’s (1936) definition of politics as who gets what, when and how. If power involves the employment of stored influence by which events, ac- tions and behaviors are affected, then politics involves the exercise of power to get something done, as well as to enhance and protect the vested interests of individuals or groups. Thus, the use of organizational politics suggests that political activity is used to overcome resistance and implies a conscious effort to organize activity to challenge opposition in a priority decision situation. The preceding discussion indicates that the concepts of power and organizational politics are related organizational politics is the use of power, with power viewed as a source of potential energy to manage relationships
- Organizations are coalitions of individuals and interest groups, which form because the members need each others’ support. Through a negotiation process, members combine forces to produce common objectives and agreed upon ways to utilize resources thus aggregating their power. Power bases are developed that can accomplish more than individual forces alone.
- There are enduring differences among individuals and groups in values, preferences, beliefs, information, and perception of reality. Such differences change slowly, if at all.
- Most of the important decisions in organizations involve allocation of scarce resources: they are decisions about who gets what. Scarcity exacerbates political behavior. In government at present, the competition is for personnel spaces and funding. Mission is the means to gain both, because resources tend to follow mission. For this reason, the Services compete for strategic mission (e.g., the omnipresent roles and missions debate), and thus make the job of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs more challenging. In the government as a whole, agencies compete for significance in the national/international picture, because significance means public approval and that means resources. (The two dominant political parties also attempt to present the American public with different views of what is significant.)
- Because of scarce resources and enduring differences, conflict is central to organizational dynamics and power is the most important resource. Conflict is more likely in under-bounded systems (less regulation and control). In an over-bounded system with power concentrated at the top (e.g., pre-Glasnost Russia), politics remains, but underground. Jefferies makes the point that organizations play the political game within the broader governmental context, but those individuals also play politics within organizations. So both influences are at work. And power is key in both cases, because it confers the ability both to allocate resources- in itself a way to increase power-and to consolidate power by bringing others with similar goals and objectives into the inner decision making core.
- Organizational goals and decisions emerge from bargaining, negotiating, and jockeying for position among members of different coalitions. Bolman and Deal offer the space shuttle program as an example of a strategic effort backed by a complex coalition consisting of NASA, contractors, Congress, the White House, the military, the media, and even portions of the public. The difficulty in the Challenger disaster was that different members of the coalition were in disagreement about how to balance technical and political concerns. These became increasingly salient as the enormously expensive shuttle program encountered one delay after another for safety-related technical reasons. At the time of the Challenger shuttle disaster, both Thiokol and NASA were under increasing pressure to produce on schedule at programmed cost. The decision to launch on that fateful day was made when political forces overcame technical considerations. But, of course, this only illustrates the decision maker’s difficulty in weighing one kind of consideration against another-subjective assessment of constituency demands versus rational data that may nonetheless lack substantiated cause-and-effect relationships with downside outcomes-under conditions of great time pressure.
The five propositions of the political frame do not attribute organizational politics to negative, dysfunctional or aggrandizing behavior. They assert that organization diversity, interdependence, resource scarcity, and power dynamics will inevitably generate political forces, regardless of the players. Organizational politics cannot be eliminated or fantasized away. Leaders, however, with a healthy power motive can learn to understand and manage political processes.POWER AS A MOTIVE
. Power is attractive because it confers the ability to influence decisions, about who gets what resources, what goals are pursued, what philosophy the organization adopts, what actions are taken, who succeeds and who fails. Power also gives a sense of control over outcomes, and may in fact convey such enhanced control. Particularly as decision issues become more complex and outcomes become more uncertain, power becomes more attractive as a tool for reducing uncertainty. Power and the ability to use it are essential to effective leadership. Strategic leaders who are uncomfortable with either the presence of great power in others or its use by themselves are probably going to fail their organizations at some point. The critical issue is why the leader seeks power and how it is used. Some see power as a tool to enhance their ability to facilitate the work of their organizations and groups. Others value power for its own sake, and exercise power for the personal satisfaction it brings. There can be good and bad in both cases. However, the leader who uses power in the service of his/her organization is using power in the most constructive sense. The leader who seeks power for its own sake and for personal satisfaction is at a level of personal maturity that will compromise his/her ethical position, risk his/her organization’s effectiveness, and perhaps even jeopardize the long-term viability of the organization(Jacobs 1996).Power competition exists at two levels. Individuals compete for power within agencies and organizations; agencies and organizations compete for power within the broader governmental context. The mechanics of power competition are much the same. In both cases, power accrues when an individual or an organization achieves control of a scarce commodity that others need. And in both cases, the operations are essentially political. Even when compelling physical force is the means, the mechanism is political. The scarce commodity is the means of inflicting harm on others. So dictators, by hook or by crook, gain a monopoly on the means for inflicting harm on others. During the course of the Cold War, the massive build-up of armaments was aimed at maintaining a “balance of forces” so as to prevent intimidation by either side. Even after Glasnost, the level of armaments on both sides was carefully negotiated so as to preclude imbalance that might tempt one side or the other toward risky moves.Power competition within an organization or agency is generally for resources- personnel spaces or funding, or both, in governmental agencies. And the basis for the competition can be constructive as well as destructive. If the top-level leadership is wise and capable, the basis for competition can be defined as meritorious performance of either individual or group. In that case, performance becomes the basis for determining who accumulates power. The process is still political, but it is also constructive because the organization as a whole benefits.
So, the political process can be either destructive or constructive, depending on the resource to be accumulated, the means by which the competitors seek to accumulate it, and the value that accrues to all competitors by virtue of the competition. (Of course, competition based on performance, if conducted at such an extreme that human values or key norms governing competition are violated, may substantially hurt the organization in the long term). However, internal politics can also be detrimental in ways not readily apparent. Sub-units within agencies may develop objectives and goals at odds with those of the agency. For example, a given “desk” owes its stature in its own agency to the constituency needs it serves. An extremely important constituency is the nation it represents within its own agency and with which it deals. The “desk” therefore may find it valuable to promote the needs of that constituency over the needs of the agency by “selling” important positions or programs that benefit the constituency-thereby unwittingly becoming co-opted and increasingly vulnerable to manipulation by that constituency. Organizations also play a political game. Organizations seek influence. Influence increases autonomy (freedom to control own assets); organizational morale (the ability to maintain cohesion and effectiveness); essence (sanctity of essential tasks and functions); roles and missions (exclusion of options that would challenge these); and budgets (increased roles and missions will always favor larger budgets) (Jefferies). Political climate of an organization is impacted by a leader through treatment and use of authority under different settings which is clearly visible during the acts of decision making, setting agenda and interaction with others to mobilize support, inspire teams and individuals and recognize people.
Leveraging political understanding for advantage
Leaders use political leverage available to them under different situations in order to promote the organizational interests. Once the understanding of organizational politics is gained leaders may use political leverage available to them under different situations in order to promote the organizational interests. Leaders exploit organizational politics even to graduate to leadership positions as potential leaders with proper political orientation may:
- Time the opportunity to highlight their contribution
- Ensure top management support for difficult decisions or initiatives
- Make use of suitable persons (experts, consultants, experienced persons with right image etc.) to put their point across
- Show respect for hierarchy in spite of the hurdles that it may create
Promoting progressive culture not politics
- Indisputably, leaders are source of power, influence and hence politics in an organization. Since people have needs and leaders have the authority to fulfill these needs, those who fulfill the needs hold potential power. Leaders can to a great extent smother political climate having negative impact on the people attitudes and organization outcomes by aligning individual needs with organizational goals, in such a way that fulfillment of collective goals results in automatic fulfillment of individual needs also. Leaders must realize that organizational politics is a function of culture of trust in the organization, which is built through values of fairness and transparency. Fair play, justice and transparency in procedures and processes is key in creating an environment where organizational politics take back seat and a progressive culture is established which gives prominence to organizational goals through voluntary involvement of individuals. In other words, leaders must inspire people into action by creating clarity and unity of purpose and build synergies through organizational values.
It is easy to blame the system. It is easy to blame others for your faults. Lets not do that and create a competitive and challenging workplace environment.Generally people who don’t have any work to do, they get indulged in “Workplace politics”. And it is said and painful to say that most of the time HR Professionals and trainers are part and parcels of such politics. As such it self, HR Professionals in
India are not as productive as their counterparts in US or UK or other European Countries, so lets be away from this game of “Workplace Politics”.It is extremely important for leaders to understand, exploit and smother the political climate in the company to maximize the organizational outcome and satisfaction levels of the people.
- Politics can be constructive
- Understand what politics is
- There is a time and place for both pragmatism and ideology
- Favor inclusiveness over domination
- Shorten your time horizon
- Abandon behaviorism and revenge
- When things turn toxic, get help
- When a difficult conversation is ahead, prepare
- Know your options when you’re asked for a favor
- Know how to respond to requests for favors
- Know how to make peace
- Narrow your own goals