Effects of Organizational Power and Politics “Those who think they’re too smart to engage in politics will be governed

by those are dumber.” -- Plato Organizational politics is the art of getting things done within organizations and involves acts that attempt to influence, enhance, or to protect the interests of individuals and groups. Organizational politics is often associated with dirty or underhanded strategic tactics implemented by ill-meaning individuals in pursuit of their own personal agenda. In part this is true, there may be an agenda that is separate and whole in and of itself at the root of office politics, but it doesn’t have to be ill meaning and implementation doesn’t have to require dirty or underhanded strategic tactics. Integrity can be a source of power and behind political tactics; you will find a source a power. The challenge for managers is to strike a balance between self and organizational interests while creating a high degree of healthy influence that happens when self-interests serve the organizations interests. Organizational Influence Organizational influence has three possible outcomes: commitment, compliance, and resistance. The best that can be hoped for is commitment because those you are trying to influence remain intrinsically motivated resulting in long-term consistency and persistence. In order to use organizational influence, individuals must perceive themselves as both competent and effective without issuing domination. Interpersonal influence is most often culturally based. Two types of influential tactics are soft and hard. Soft tactics are considered fair and hard tactics are perceived as unfair. Five generic soft tactics include: rational persuasion, inspirational appeals, consultation, ingratiation, and personal appeals. Of these five soft tactics, consultation, rational persuasion, and inspirational tactics have the best likelihood of generating

long-term commitment meaning that the influence attempt must involve something important and enjoyable and be based upon a friendly relationship. Ingratiating improves performance appraisals. Four generic hard tactics include: exchange, coalition tactics, pressure, and legitimating tactics. Ranking of the influence tactics does not effect downward, upward, or lateral influential directions. Win-win relationships (mutuality of interests) are based on complementary strengths and personal appeals. There are four methods for dealing with potential allies: mutual respect, openness, trust, and mutual benefit. Reciprocity is the foundation that provides for the formation of long-term strategic alliances and this involves personal risk. Organizational Power Two dimensions of power include socialized and personalized arise from five different bases: reward, coercive, legitimate, expert, and referent. Women seem to have a higher need for socialized power and as women gain power; tensions may form between male peers as men attempt to protect their power bases. Glass ceilings revolve around access to power. To use power ethically and responsibly, managers must strive for socialized power and avoid personalized power when creating an effective power base. Socialized power is uplifting resulting in initiation, persistence, and consistency and results from the positive use of legitimate, expert, and referent power. Personalized power often results in domination, focuses on self-interests, and involves negative legitimate power, coercive, and negative rewards tactics. Expert and referent power have the most positive impact between power bases and work outcomes and tend produce compliance however, compliant people require a constant flow of power to remain motivated. Coercive and negative legitimate power can also produce compliance, but this will come with animosity producing only short-term

results. Reward and legitimate power have a slightly positive impact and coercive power has a negative impact. Positive legitimate, expert, and reference foster internalization that is intrinsically driven creating allies who are self-starters requiring less direct supervision. The greatest potential for improving job performance and personal satisfaction, and thus reducing turnover, comes from expert and referent power. Organizational Politics Socioeconomic and cultural impacts affect politics, racial, ethnic minorities, and white women appear to have a lesser degree of understanding of organizational politics than do white men. Favorable politics affects those who are friendly, reasonable, and often of the opposite gender. Individuals who rely on ingratiation as a political tactic receive less favorable results from their efforts. Five sources of uncertainty trigger political behavior: unclear objectives, vague performance measures or controls, incomplete decision processes, competition, and change. Three levels of political maneuvers include: individual, coalition (issue-oriented informal group bound by pursuit of a single issue), and networks (people-oriented associations that seek support for self-interests). Eight political tactics that occur include: attacking or blaming, use of information either positive or negative as a tool, image, forming a support base, praise (ingratiation), power coalitions with strong allies, associations (with influential people), and obligations (reciprocity). Misuse of power reflects in domination, intimidation, and in threats. Communicating from an egocentric source creates only temporary results and may be viewed as underhanded or coercive. Managing politics helps to keep its influence constructive and within reasonable bounds. Reducing system uncertainty and competition by using standardized performance evaluations

with clear and distinct performance / rewards links and dissolving internal competition by focusing on external competitiveness with clearly defined goals and objectives helps restore or to create a fair and level “playing field”. Preventing or breaking political fiefdoms by use of direct tactics can help to manage organizational politics. Instilling a rational attitude that places organizational goals first over personal self-interests and making this the basis for rewards and promotions can help control the misuse of power in organizational politics. Integrating fairness through commitment and ingratiation creates positive long-term results within an organization. Individuals and group must realize that you cannot make change, you have to sell it and this involves politics and power. Sharing of information ethically and responsibly can help level the playing field in the political arena. Empowering lower level employees to make decisions can often help to break or prevent political fiefdoms within an organization. Delegation is the highest form of empowerment and this takes trust, time, and cognitive experiences. Empowering through delegation is a three-step process that includes domination, consultation, and participation. When implemented properly and with integrity, empowering through delegation builds a solid base through which you create powerful allies that are motivated in the best interest of the organization. Personal initiative is a way of behaving that goes beyond formal job requirements and reveals that you can be trusted. Delegation requires commitment that is reflective of personal initiative to act and to behave ethically and with integrity in the spirit of creating win-win solutions and situations.

Kreitner and Kinicki (2001). Influence, Tactics, Empowerment, and Politics. Organizational Behavior, Fifth Edition. The McGraw-Hill Companies.

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