Organizational Politics & Power – A Perspective

Power & Politics in a typical organisation seem to go hand in hand. Organizations may be seen as a cauldron of power game (or struggle) where individuals seek to thrive for their intrinsic needs, be it for social/financial security or for meeting their economic needs. It is in pursuit of such alliances (that will draw them upwards in the ladder) that individuals look at organisational relations

It can be safely assumed today that politics in organizations is a phenomenon that is not easy to escape.

Robbins defines political behaviour in organizations as activities that are not required as a part of one’s formal role in an organization, but that influence, or attempt to influence, the distribution of advantages and disadvantages in an organization.

The definition, though neutral in nature, encompasses both the negative and the positive hues of politicking in an organisation. The practice is termed as organizationally unsanctioned, but not necessarily self-serving. Political behaviour in a work environment may be seen as an attempt to derive on one’s power bases. This very fact brings in the control mechanism, as any organism who indulges in illegitimate political behaviour risks a lack of power base especially if it stems from a referent or any other personal power base.

Linkage with Organisational Theories

Political systems in an organisation are an important influence in day to day management and influence initiatives at an individual, group and inter-organisational level. Any given instance of interaction among two office bearers, who form a part of the same system, is invariably coloured or influenced to an extent. Organisational behaviour is saturated with instances of negotiations, bargaining, power games and influence all of which is a part of politics.

A study of political behaviour in relation to power held by individuals is undoubtedly an important component of Group Behaviour studies. The dependency postulates, the bases of power and the power tactics used for day to day management of work are all components of Politicking in groups in an Organisation. Even coalition that is so rampant in the country politics is an example of political tactics. Impression Management by individuals also forms a part of Political behaviour.

Why politics brews?

As Pfeffer lays down in Power in Organizations, organizations are made of individuals and groups with different goals values and interests. This is where the potential conflict source lies.

Resources in an organisation, tangible/intangible are all available in a limited measure. There are only so many training avenues (read paid holidays), so many designations, so many allowed promotions, and so much time available. This leads to a power struggle to achieve a larger share of the existing pie much in the lines of the demand and supply forces in a free market. The only difference here is that influence replaces the money. This turns potential conflict into real conflict.

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