The word politics is taken in a negative sense in most of the situations. Despite of this widely held belief, politics can be found everywhere right from home to the organization or the country level. Politics exists in every place where there are more than one person seeking same resources which are limited. Intentionally or unintentionally, everybody plays politics in one or the other way to serve their purpose and it proves to be helpful for someone while considered as “dirty” by others who are not benefitted by it.
But probably it cannot be avoided as the politics comes in various forms and is present in every field of work in one or the other form. However, we are here to discuss about the politics present in the organizations in various levels and its affect on the work and people there. This presence of politics in the organization is called the organizational politics. According to Brandon and Seldman (2004), “Organizational politics are informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or achieve other targeted objectives”.
Extending the same note, Organizational politics refers to behaviours “that occur on an informal basis within an organization and involve intentional acts of influence that are designed to protect or enhance individuals’ professional careers when conflicting courses of action are possible” (Drory, 1993; Porter, Allen, & Angle, 1981). Many studies have shown that organizational politics cannot be always considered to be a bad practice.
In many cases, it proves to be beneficial for the organizations. Kotter, in his article “Power and influence”, says “Without political awareness and skill, we face the inevitable prospect of becoming immersed in bureaucratic infighting, parochial politics and destructive power struggles, which greatly retard organizational initiative, innovation, morale, and performance. ” The concept is also supported by Randolph(1985) where he states that “Organizational Politics is not necessarily bad.
It is another tool that employees and managers have for promoting goals that cannot be achieved in other ways”. Thus, in various articles, it has been stated that organizational politics is one of the major parts of business and it also has positive affects on the success of the organizations. To understand the concept of organizational politics, I would like to share a very common example of organizational politics.
An employee asking for a salary hike in general terms would not probably be considered as an organizational politics, but as we see generally in the construction companies or other government organizations where labour unions are present, major strikes take place when the workers stop working and go on strike to force the organization for a salary hike. This may be considered as a major example of organizational politics. This example is having a very broad and visible scope but there are many other ways in which politics take place in the organizations.
Sometimes they are visible to everyone but in most cases, it is played like a strategy game and it becomes tough to know where politics is happening. Politics take place in the organizations in every level, right from the junior level of workers for impressing their seniors and climbing up the corporate ladder, to the highest level of employees where they play politics for power and status. Sometimes, when the politics reaches a very high level in the organizations, it affects the organization in an adverse way and can be harmful for the organization’s future.
Looking back to the article on “The Social Identity Theory”, I could relate the theory to the reasons behind the politics in the organizations. The social identity theory dealt with the human behaviours in different social gatherings. The strategies of organizational politics grow gradually in the employee’s behaviour. The way an experienced person joins the organization is very different from the fresher who joins his first organization. An experienced person is aware of the politics in the organizations and hence when he joins a new organization, he is very focussed about what he has to do.
He quickly sets his target people whom he has to impress and whom he can rule. Moving further, he works on his strategies to achieve his pre-planned goal. However, when a fresher joins an organization, he is not aware of the politics in the organization and he still behaves in his high school ways doing friendships with the like ones and avoiding the unmatched people. But slowly, being in the organization, he smells the need of relationships with the right people and make his initial strategies to reach the intended person.
Hence his identity changes in the organizational setup, and he learns the applicability of the old proverb that who you know matters as much as what you know. Many times, the same behaviour of a person is said to be wrong in terms of ethical behaviours but when the profitability of playing politics are sighted by the fellow members, they adopt the same political behaviour and tries to play the same ‘dirty politics’ to serve their purpose. When I was working in the organization, I have seen many cases like this, where people have played politics and have gained from it.
In a very general scenario, an employee whether loves or hates his manager, he is always polite and sweet to him. This love and affection may not be because of the respect for the manager but it is also a type of organizational politics. We know with whom we have to keep good relation to grow in the organization. We know that keeping good relation with the manager will help us get promoted so however he is, we try to overlook it and behave in a very nice and polite way with him. A very general example of organizational politics can be seen in every small or large project.
Every team member pretends to work for the whole team and care for each other but a very obvious fact is that he always try to over show him in the eyes of the seniors but showing the unintentional means. He never let other team members know that he is promoting himself in front of others but he tries to do that in some or the other way. This can be seen mostly in the Team Leader behaviours. He is regarded as a representative of the whole team and is generally responsible for answering for the whole team.
While representing the team, he generally tries to hide the negative points or the mistakes done by the team members and try to over highlight the small achievements done by the team. His direct motive is the team but the indirect motive is always he. He knows that he can grow only when the team grows. Other say it as dirty tricks but no body can escape from it. According to King(1989), “Could it be that by refusing to play, we are able to avoid conflict that might compromise our principles and integrity? This is akin to “taking our ball and going home! We gain a temporary reprieve, but the challenge still remains. Play or not play, the game still goes on! ” Hence happily or forcefully, everybody has to enter the dirty game in order to save their chance in the game. Increasing social networking in the organizations is also a type of organizational politics. According to Dwyer in his article “How to win at Office Politics”, says ‘Successful politics starts with relationships: You’ll need your coworkers’ support — or at minimum their respect — to accomplish anything’.
Social networking plays a very important role in the organizations. It is said that it’s worthless to count the enemies in your organization, but making more friends than the enemies always counts. It is evident that the more connections you have in your organization, the more powerful you are. All the negative impacts from the enemies can be counterbalanced by the positive impacts of friends. The main intention is to cover the area of enemies by friends. The affect of power is more visible in the higher level of hierarchy in the organizations.
According to Farrell and Peterson (1982), “the successful practice of organizational politics is perceived to lead to a higher level of power, and once a higher level of power is attained, there is more opportunity to engage in political behaviour”. In a leadership position, the leader has more opportunity and need to play politics either for its own personal motive or for the sake of the organization. In a higher level, the leaders have the opportunity to highlight their contribution whenever needed. Due to the power they have, it is easier for them to manipulate things and show it in a more attractive way.
In any case of brawl, they are capable to use any available resource such as experts, consultants, experienced persons, and administrative person etc. to put their point across and solve the problem. Moreover, they can ensure the help from the top management in case of difficult initiatives or discussions. Power is of no use if it cannot be used in the adverse situations. In a negative note, he can put the burden on others without letting them know in case of any unfavourable situation to save their position or work.
Power can be used easily to remove any resistance in the work but using the power in a right way so that everybody is satisfied and happy is called the right politics. Moreover, the leaders do have the capability to exploit the political climate in the organization and maximize the organizational output and the satisfaction of the employees working under them. Giving appreciations, rewards and importance to the employees gives them a confidence to work and make them feel that they are important for the organization. This increases their loyalty towards the organization and commitment towards their work.
This in turn increases the productivity and profitability for the organization as a whole. Thus, the employees are the main stakeholders of an organization and hence any politics in the organization should not break their trust or confidence and hence using the politics in a right way is very necessary in any level of the organization. Contrarily, sometimes when the manager intentionally or unintentionally avoids an employee or his good work or gives more importance to somebody else in front of him, then the employee feels isolated and avoided.
Such repeated action results in lowering the employee’s confidence level and finally leads to frustration and mistrust. He eventually starts thinking that his hard work is not valued by the organization and he looses interest in his work. Because of this, his performance in the work decreases and leads him towards failure. Hence the behaviour of the leaders towards their employee plays a very important part in the overall progress of the employee. The satisfaction an employee feels at work leads him to maintain the status quo, while the lack of it may lead him to act in order to influence and change decisions in the organization.
The politics in organizations changes the behaviour of an individual drastically. Once faced the politics in his work, he tends to evaluate every act of others in a political way. He starts evaluating the things in a more focused way and starts questioning every act of others. Due to this, he forces himself to make strategies to win against others. Sometimes, the level of competition reaches such a high level that it starts taking a wrong way and proving bad for the organizational culture. At this time, he starts caring less about the team work and concentrates only on his work.
According to Dattner and Dunn, “In overly political organizations, there is a focus in individual self-interest and silos rather than on the good of the organization. Also there are clearly defined in-groups and out-groups, and a preoccupation with who is in each category. ” This leads to a weak team building and differences among the team members. At this point of time, the real work of a leader comes into act. It becomes necessary for the leader to make some strategies so that he can heal the relational differences among the team members and get them back to the quality and united work rather han competing among themselves. Patience and the right politics play a very important role in such circumstances. Hence, organizational politics cannot be considered as negative all the time as it is generally important in the organizations in order to remove the hurdles in the work and maximize the output. However, Organizational Politics sometimes can be regarded as bad for the organizations and the employees. Sometimes, it lays a very bad affect on the employees with results in job resignation, job anxiety, dissatisfaction, frustration etc.
Sometimes, employees who are dedicated towards their work to a more extent than others fail to get promoted and others having a political excellence win the battle. In such cases, the moral of the hardworking employees get affected and they do not get the actual worth of their hard work and dedication. Such reasons result in job dissatisfaction and they leave the company in search of a better environment but finally fail to find one. This is because one cannot get rid of the politics in the environment. The only option left with them is to change their own nature and behaviour and follow the political path.
The hard work starts getting converted to smart work which can be beneficial for the individuals but probably is not good for the organizations. Moreover, a proper communication is very important in the organization. Mai and Akerson in their article ‘Building a better organization through effective communication’ says that “Above all, leadership communication entails nurturing and maintaining a workplace environment in which communication flows freely and quickly in all directions with minimal distortion or lag time”.
But when people get power, they sometimes hide the truth or share the necessary information with a limited number of people or probably share it very late with others. Sometimes, they alter the information and frame it in a misleading way for their own personal motives. The information starts with a different motive and intention in the higher level and by the time it reaches the lower level employees, the motive and meaning of the information changes. The intent of the information gradually changes in every level down, according to his or her political inclinations.
Later on, when the truth unfolds, it puts a negative impact on other employees. The few negative impacts of politics on individuals as stated by Dattner and Dunn in their article “Organizational Politics” are decreasing loyalty and increasing focus on self interest, hoarding of information and control, stress and anxiety, paranoia and perceptual distortions, excessive worrying about status and perceived slights, defensiveness about errors and mistakes, mistrust of the validity of feedback, acting out and regressive behaviours etc.
Moreover, when a person comes into power, sometimes he tends to create a ‘One Man Rule’ in the organization level or in the project level, which creates a lot of difficulties for the employees under him. He starts taking the problem in a more personal way and tends to take revenge with people he doesn’t like. In such situations, the intent of the politics goes beyond the organizational scope and reaches a personal arena.
In such situations, during the time of electing people for promotions, he gets very biased resulting in the selection of people who are efficient in impressing him through their politics and the hard working and the work centric people lags behind in this game. According to Kacmar & Ferris (1991), “In highly political organizations, rewards are not necessarily related to work performance, but may instead be tied to relationships, power, and other less objective factors. Due to this, the power and authority is not adequately distributed which leads to other problems. According to Zivnuska et al, in their article ‘Journal of Organizational Behaviour’, ‘If organizational behaviour is not governed by a clear set of rules or expectations and behaviour is enacted with the sole purpose of personal gain, it is difficult for employees to predict behaviour of colleagues, managers, or the executive team. ’ Conclusively, like it or not, every work place is a political environment. But politics not always mean playing a dirty game.
In its purest form, the organizational politics simply mean removing hurdles in your way and moving from here to there; by securing the job, securing a promotion, gaining support from other team mates or precisely getting the work done in an easier way. Getting success in the life is everybody’s main intention of life and for achieving it we have to go through many tough ways. Clearing the tough ways and making it easier for us is our motive and doing so by finding a way out in a strategic and probably ethical way is never wrong.
However, excess of anything proves to be harmful and thus a proper mix of politics and work can serve the organization and the people in a better way. Politics and power are interrelated and both of it should be used in an appropriate way to avoid imbalance in work and ethics. Moreover, avoiding the organizational politics can never be the solution for an individual but trying to learn to be in such a political environment and win over it is the main essence of the work experience. REFERENCES Aronow, J. (2004).
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