Power and Politics Power and politics are noticeable in everyday life whether it is at work, school, television, or even children’s sports team. There is always somebody with either self imposed or justified power making decisions and practicing a form of politics. The basis for power and politics is ‘the degree of interconnectedness among individuals” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008, pg. 1). This means that as individuals work towards achieving their own goals they must also consider the interests of others.
This paper will briefly describe the essence power and politics and different managerial strategies utilizing power and politics. Power and Politics In Organizational Behavior, power is defined as the ability for one person to get another person to do something the first person wants done or the ability to make things happen in the way one wants them to (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). While power is used to make things happen, influence is what a person acquires when using power and it is recognizable through the behavioral response of whomever he or she has influence on.
The essence of power is literally the control over the behavior of others and without a direct or indirect connection, behavior cannot be changed (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). In organizational settings, managerial power is derived from the ability one has to combine the many factors of positional and personal power. Positional power includes legitimate power, reward or coercive power, process power, information power, and representative power. Legitimate power is simply the “right to command” one attains by holding a higher position in an organization.
Reward or coercive power is when a manager figure uses extrinsic or intrinsic rewards or punishments to gain control of others. Only a couple examples of the six that exist but one can see from the examples that the above powers are justified in one way or another based on the position one holds in the organization but managers must also learn to utilize personal power. Personal power comes from within the individual and is not relative to the individual’s position. Personal power consists of expert power, rational persuasion, referent power, and coalition power.
By only defining expert and rational power one can understand that it does not reflect position of the individual. Expert power is attained by having knowledge or experience that others do not possess but want so they follow whoever does have it. Rational persuasion is power achieved through one’s ability to persuade another to follow or accept a common goal (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). Power and influence often leads to the subject of politics and its misleading reputation of always involving “illicit deals, favors, and special personal relationships” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008, pg. 1). This is not always the case and it is important to adopt a perspective on politics in organizations that function in a wider capacity. There are two different ways to view politics; one is the above mentioned way as being centralized around self-interest and the use of non-sanctioned means, more formally defined as “the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to obtain sanctioned ends through non-sanctioned means” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008, pg. 11).
A real life example of this would be the Enron Scandal and how the CEOs used “creative accounting” to hide losses in subsidiary companies to make Enron look stronger than it actually was. The CEOs also used positional and personal power to encourage its employees and others to purchase stock in the company to raise the prices and create an appearance of a strong company. When news about the false accounting was about to come to light, the CEOs sold all of their stock at high prices leaving a massive amount of their investors with worthless stocks and the company went bankrupt.
The other way views politics as a necessary function that from heterogeneous societies that are made up of different people with different self-interests, so politics arise because those individuals need help developing compromises, avoiding confrontations, and living together. Thus, organizational politics is formally defined as “the use of power to develop socially acceptable ends and means that balance individuals and collective interests” (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008, pg. 11). Power and Political Strategies
Managers in an organizational setting can use the different combinations of positional and personal power to form political strategies when making changes to the organization. Often in organizations, a resistance to change exists and is defined by any behavior or attitude that supports unwillingness to accept change. With this in mind, managers consciously or unconsciously use different methods to either ease or force the resisting members to conform to the change. Three examples of strategies include force-coercion, rational persuasion, and shared-power strategy.
In a force-coercion strategy, a manager would use a power base consisting of reward, coercive, and legitimate powers as primary inducements to change. The manager is simply commanding with legitimate authority, enticing with rewards, or frightening with threats of punishment so people respond to it and make the change. Though the change is made, because the people were only responding out of fear of punishment or hopes of reward, the resulted compliance is usually temporary and only continues as long as the authority, rewards, or punishment are still in force.
This strategy is best used in an organization when the people who are being influenced are only motivated by self-interest and what they may personally gain or lose. The rational persuasion strategy is mainly the use of expertise power in which a manager would use knowledge, support, and rational to make those being influenced believe that the change will leave them better off than before. This strategy would be better used when the people being influenced are rational and guided by reasoning in decision making.
When utilized and completed successfully the results are long lasting and have a more naturalized effect of change than force-coercion. The shared power strategy sincerely and actively involves those who are affected by any changes with the use of referent power. This strategy induces the support of change through involvement and empowerment by building personal values, group norms, and shared goals, thus resulting in a natural process of change. A manager relies on the power of people’s personal reference and he or she also shares his or her power by allowing others to actively participate in planning and applying change.
Successfully executed, this strategy will result in a long lasting, internalized change (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn, 2008). Organizational politics can be formed and used in different ways and are not automatically good or bad. Politics can serve in numerous functions like overcoming personnel inadequacies and coping with change. Power in any form is highly desirable to acquire especially in an organizational setting, it is key to becoming an efficient and ultimately essential leader for any organization.