Politics in Organisational Behaviour
Politics in today’s organization is a fact of life. Organisational politics has always existed where groups of people have decided to work or live concurrently. However one would like to wish it away, its impact and effects are unlikely to disappear.
Organisational politics is the term for how individuals and groups within an organisation get and use power or influence, usually to protect or enhance their position. It involves intentional acts of influence to enhance or protect the self-interest of individuals or groups. Managers ignore organisational politics at their peril. While it is not appropriate for managers to become involved in the day-to-day machinations of organisational politics, a good strategy to understand what is going on is to take an open and inclusive system approach to HRM.
Organisational Politics Definition
According to Cropanzano et al, “Organisational politics can be defined as strategically designed behaviours that maximise self-interest”.
As per Mayes and Allen, “Organisational politics is the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organisation or to obtain sanctioned ends through non-sanctioned means”.
According to Farrell and Peterson, “Politics in an organisation refers to those activities that are not required as part of one’s formal role in the organisation, but that influence or attempt to influence the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within the organisation”.
According to Tushman, “Politics refers to the structure and process of the use of authority and power to affect the definition of goals, direction and the other major parameters of the organisation. Decisions are not made in a rational way but rather through compromise, accommodation and bargaining”.
Nature of Organisational Politics
The nature of politics can be described as follows:
1) Uses Some Sort of Power: Organisational politics involves some sort of power either directly or indirectly. Organisational politics can be employed by those who are in official positions and enjoy authority in the organisation. It can also be influenced by other people close to those who hold formal authority.
2) Self-Serving: Organisational politics involves self-serving behaviour. It suggests that either organisational resource is used for personal welfare or other benefits are given to another person. In both cases, the decision is not rational from the organisation’s point of view.
3) Outside One’s Job Requirements: Political behaviour is outside the requirements of one’s specified job. It involves ways of accomplishing things that are not formally recognised practices or procedures
4) Influenced by the Behaviour of Others: Politics takes place when an individual recognises that the success of his goals is influenced by others’ behaviour. In such a case, politicking involves the eradication of the influential manoeuvres of a member of the organisation.
5) Irrational Decisions: From the organisation’s point of view political decisions are not rational. These decisions are based on injustice and are usually undertaken to attain more power.
Causes of Organisational Politics
Several factors are responsible for political behaviour. These factors are shown in the figure given below:
1) Individual Factors
Factors contributing to political behaviour at the individual level are:
i) High Self-Monitors: A high self-monitor is someone concerned about how they are perceived by others and will change their behaviour to fit different situations. They tend to be more skilled in political behaviour.
ii) Internal Locus of Control: People with an internal locus of control are proactive and prone to manipulate situations in their favour.
iii) High Machiavellian Personality: People with high Machiavellian personalities are characterised by the will to manipulate and desire for power. They use politics to further their self-interest.
iv) Investment in Organisation: Investment in terms of expectations forces the individual to use illegitimate means.
v) Perceived Job Alternatives: More job opportunities an individual has, results in more political behaviour.
2) Organisational Factors
Organisational factors contributing to political behaviour include:
i) Reallocation of Resources: The reallocation of resources is necessary when the resources available either increase or decrease. These situations force individuals to resort to politics.
ii) Promotion Opportunities: Normally, the opportunities for promotion or advancement are lesser than the candidates expecting a promotion. This situation leads to competition and thereby political behaviour by the competing candidates.
iii) Low Trust: Low trust in organisations leads to tight control which in turn makes the subordinates behave illegitimately.
iv) Role Ambiguity: The unclear expectation from the employee makes him act politically.
v) Unclear Performance Appraisal System: Employee does not know what to do. And to what level of perfection does he have to do? etc., under the unclear performance appraisal system. This situation leads to political behaviour and creates ambiguity.
vi) Zero-Sum Reward Practices: The win-lose approach in reward allocation is called the zero-sum approach. People perceive that they will win double if others lose. For example, if only one employee is promoted have employee’s joy is immense. Therefore, this situation makes people take the chance, even through illegitimate means.
vii) Democratic Decision Making: The traditionally autocratic managers cannot make the decision Demically in their true sense. Therefore, they refer the issues to committees and commissions to offer recommendations, and finally, they make the decisions they desire.
viii) High-Performance Pressures: High-performance pressures make people find shortcuts and politics to show superfluously high performance or through window-dressing.
ix) Self-Serving Senior Managers: The political behaviour by the top management with rewards encourages the people at the lower level to resort to politics.
People’s Response to Organisational Politics
People’s responses to organisational politics can be as follows:
1) Reduced Job Satisfaction
There is very strong evidence that perceptions of organisational politics are negatively related to job satisfaction.
2) Increased Job Anxiety and Stress
The perception of politics also tends to increase job anxiety and stress. This seems to be due to the perception that, by not engaging in politics a person may be losing ground to others who are active politically or conversely because of the additional pressures people feel because of having entered into and competing in the political arena.
3) Increased Turnover
When there is excess politics, it can lead to employees quitting.
4) Reduced Employee Performance
There is preliminary evidence suggesting that politics leads to self. reported declines in employee performance. This may occur because according to employees’ perception, political environments are unfair and it all demotivates them.
5) Decreased Overall Productivity
Politics lowers the output of an individual and eventually affects the productivity of the organisation, Individuals who play politics at the workplace pay less attention to their work. As a result of politics in the workplace, employees fail to achieve targets within the stipulated timeframe. Work gets delayed in such an institution.
6) Spoiled Ambience
Politics leads to a negative environment in the workplace. It spoils the relationships among individuals. An individual playing politics at the organisation is disliked by all.
7) Changes in Employee’s Attitude
Politics changes the attitude of the employees. Even serious employees lose interest in work and attend office just for the sake of it. Internal politics do not allow employees to give their full efforts at the workplace. No matter how much effort an employee puts in, it goes unnoticed in a politically driven organization.
8) Demotivated Employees
Employees feel demotivated when they are not rewarded suitably or someone who has not worked hard gets the benefits due to mere politics. Discussions are necessary at the workplace to extract the best from the employees. Employees playing politics always look for an opportunity to tarnish the image of their fellow workers.