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Power and Organizational Politics

Politics refers to the use of power and authority to influence organizational outcomes.

Power-- the capacity to ensure the outcomes one wishes and to prevent those one does not wish. Influence-- the capacity to affect others. Authority-- the capacity to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions.

Historical Views of Politics

Maciavelli (early 1500s) The Prince
Assume that people are ungrateful, fickle, and deceitful The purpose of political leadership is to secure and maintain power A good leader is independent and dominates people

Historical Views of Politics

Maciavelli (early 1500s) The Prince
The End Justifies the Means The leader can be ruthless if necessary Machiavellian means characterized by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith

Historical Views of Politics

Webers forms of power
Charismatic Traditional Legal-Rational

Changing Perspectives on Workers and Organizations

A social-psychological view of power
Power is not necessarily open coercion, influence, or control

Power is the perception of others that the power wielder could exercise coercion, influence, or control if he or she chose to do so
How much power you have is based on how much power think you have! Power must be granted

Questioning Power and Authority

1960s Radicals Organizational politics is outmoded and unproductive
Traditionally executive power is based on the idea of ownership

1990s the idea of Servant Leadership and Empowerment

Questioning Power and Authority

Power is the opposite of dependency
Organizations seek to minimize dependency by
Seeking prestige Engaging in cooperative strategies Contracting Co-opting

Recognizing Organizational Politics

Use of power increases when structure is decentralized, resources are scarce, there is disagreement on goals, and there is uncertainty about technologies In other words:
When resources are limited, goals and processes are unclear, Power Politics are very likely

Recognizing Organizational Politics

Three Faces of Power
First Face: Overt Coercion Second Face: Exclusionary Actions avoid challenges Third Face: Hegemonic control convince me that what you want is what I want

Balancing Power
Four styles to balance or equalize power
1 decrease needs or demands 2 increase alternative sources of getting what you want 3 increase others needs or demands for us 4 decrease other peoples alternative sources (special expertise)
Options 1 and 2 create psychological distance 3 and 4 result in a stronger work commitment

Structural Aspects of Power

Opportunity Mobility Perceived political power Dependency Influence Rewards Numerical Representation

Power Politics
Positive or Destructive Force?
Power politics help organizations to adapt and interact with the environment appropriately Managers are dependent upon workers
Workers have limited time, energy, and talent Power is needed to manage these Some use power for personal and not organizational goals

How to handle power

Limit access to decision makers Alter decision criteria to performance Offer financial incentives to discourage political activity

Empowerment is the development of personal power of those in the organization to achieve their goals Power is traditionally seen as a relational construct (delegation or sharing power) Power as a motivational construct creating motivation and feeling of personal efficacy

Conditions of moving from Powerlessness to Empowerment 1. Conditions leading to feelings of powerlessness 2. Strategies to increase personal efficacy (participative management) 3. Feedback 4. Reinforcement of empowerment 5. Persistence of new behavior


Empowerment cannot be granted but has to be taken by the individual The conditions for empowerment can be fostered

Ways of Acting
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Consider all your sources of power Make yourself indispensable Take charge of your own empowerment Use power constructively and effectively Devote energy to clarifying goals Support and foster empowerment of others Be aware and think about how political issues 8. Be nice