Both individuals and groups may engage in office politics which can be highly destructive, as people focus on personal gains at the expense of the organization. “Self-serving political actions can negatively influence our social groupings, cooperation, information sharing, and many other organizational functions. ” Thus, it is vital to pay attention to organizational politics and create the right political landscape. “Politics is the lubricant that oils your organization’s internal gears.
Office politics has also been described as “simply how power gets worked out on a practical, day-to-day basis” “Office politics” are the strategies that people play to gain advantage, personally or for a cause they support. The term often has a negative connotation, in that it refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good.
In this context, it often adversely affects the working environment and relationships within it. Good “office politics”, on the other hand, help you airly promote yourself and your cause, and is more often called networking and stakeholder management. Perhaps due to the negative connotation, many people see office politics as something very much to be avoided. But the truth is, to ensure your own success and that of your projects; you must navigate the minefield of Office Politics. If you deny the ‘bad politics’ that may be going on around you, and avoid dealing with them, you may needlessly suffer whilst others take unfair advantage.
And if you avoid practicing ‘good politics’, you miss the opportunities to properly further your own interests, and those of your team and your cause. Why work politics are inevitable:
•Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or some other basis of influence. •For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it. •Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way. Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict. •People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good. The Political Landscape Political landscape is a set of hierarchies that link the political players together. In other words Political landscape is what defines relationships between colleagues at a given time.
Drafting of this landscape begins with the leaders of the organization influencing the formal hierarchy; which defines the reporting structure and indicates the political setup of the organization as it was initially intended. Organizational hierarchies, each with its own unique political challenges, depend on many factors of the given organization. Said factors include organizational goals, size of the organization, number of resources available and the type of leaders within the organization.
Political landscape will change as individuals are introduced into the organizational mix. During the process of working together an informal hierarchy is established. The main link between individuals on a political landscape is the access to-in addition to-the flow of information. This hierarchy can be identified by applying numerical values to relationships in proportion to how much two individuals rate and value one another. The sum value of these relating to an individual establishes the place on the hierarchy.
Two or more people estimating relationships and merging results can produce more certain results. People quickly realize who the boss is, whom they depend on for valuable information, and who knows all the office gossip. It is very important to recognize where you fit in this landscape and what power and influence you have within the organization. It is important not only to use that power in pursuit of the organization’s goals, but also to ensure others do not abuse it. “Each player in the organization has a role in the politics that grease the wheels of getting things done.
Politics : Power in Action When people get together in groups, power will be exerted. People want to carve out a niche from which to exert influence, to earn rewards, and to advance in their careers. When employees in organizations convert their power into action, we describe them as being engaged in politics. Those with good political skills have the ability to use their bases of power effectively. It is essential for the new workforce joining work to understand the influence of political skills.
Young people today who are getting ready to enter the organizational world are simply not ready. They may have the required knowledge, skill, and ability to work hard and turn out quality products or services, but lack the ability to show gratification. It has also been observed that they lack political skill and are amazingly unprepared to deal with organizational politics. More often than not “legitimate-illegitimate” dimensions in political behavior are being discussed and pondered upon.
Legitimate political behavior refers to normal everyday politics – complaining to your supervisor, bypassing the chain of command, forming coalitions, obstructing organizational policies or decisions through inaction or excessive adherence to rules, and developing contacts outside the organization through one’s professional activities. On the other hand, there are also illegitimate political behaviors that violate the implied rules of the game.
Those who pursue such extreme activities are often described as individuals who “play hardball. Illegitimate activities include sabotage, whistle-blowing, and symbolic protests such as wearing unorthodox dress or protest buttons and groups of employees simultaneously calling in sick. The vast majority of all organizational political actions are of the legitimate variety. The reasons are pragmatic: The extreme illegitimate forms of political behavior pose a very real risk of loss of organizational membership or extreme sanctions against those who use them and then fall short in having enough power to ensure that they work.
Political Behavior: Causes & Consequences: Not all groups or organizations are equally political. In some organizations, for instance, politicking is overt and rampant, while in others, politics plays a small role in influencing outcomes. A number of factors appear to encourage political behavior. Some are individual characteristics, derived from the unique qualities of the people the organization employs; others are a result of organization’s culture or internal environment.
Exhibit 1 illustrates how both individual and organizational factors can increase political behavior and provide favorable outcomes for both individuals and groups in the organization. Individual Factors: Researchers have identified that in terms of individual traits, employees who are high self monitors, possess and internal locus of control, and have a high need for power are more likely to engage in political behavior. The high self-monitor is more sensitive to social cues, exhibits higher levels of social conformity, and is more likely to be skilled in political behavior than the low self-monitor.
Individuals with an internal locus of control, because they believe they can control their environment, are more prone to take a proactive stance and attempt to manipulate situations in their favor. In addition, an individual’s investment in the organization, perceived alternatives, and expectations of success will influence the degree to which he or she will pursue illegitimate means of political action. The more a person has invested in the organization in terms of expectations of increased future benefits, the more that person has to lose if forced out and the less likely he or she is to use illegitimate means.
The more alternative job opportunities an individual has- the more likely that individual is to risk illegitimate political actions. Finally if an individual has a low expectation of success in using illegitimate means, it is unlikely that he or she will attempt to do so. High expectations of success in the use of illegitimate means are most likely to be the province of both experienced and powerful individuals with polished political skills and inexperienced and naive employees who misjudge their chances. Organizational factors:
There are various factors other then individual one’s that encourage politicking in organizations. Specifically, when an organization’s resources are declining, when the existing pattern of resources is changing, and when there is opportunity for promotions, politicking is more likely to surface. In addition, cultures characterized by low trust, role ambiguity, unclear performance evaluation systems, zero- sum reward allocation practices, democratic decision making, high pressures for performance, and self-serving senior managers will create breeding grounds for politicking.