Corporate politics and use of power

3rd November 2022 0 By indiafreenotes

Power and politics are considered as major aspects of organization. Power and politics play a huge role in industry and govern how to make decisions, interaction of employees with one another. Both concepts fundamentally influence the behaviour of individuals and group and assist in problem solving in organizational setting. In businesses, the impact of power depends on whether workers use positive or negative power to influence others in the workplace. Politics may directly influence who has the power and decide whether the overall culture of the workplace supports productivity. Robbins described power as a capacity that one person has to influence the behaviour of other person. Power is the medium through which numerous conflicts are resolved. The notion of power characterizes interactions among people more than one person must be involved. Further, power is never absolute or static. It is a vibrant relationship that changes as situations and individuals change. For example, a manager may strongly influence the behaviour of one subordinate but, at the same time, only slightly influence another. Managers may be influential with respect to their own subordinates, yet be unable to influence the behaviours of employees in other departments. Power relationships are the medium within which business is conducted. People often take these relationships for granted, but when they shift, everything changes. In literature, Max Weber defined power as “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance.” Along similar lines, Emerson suggests that “The power of actor A over actor B is the amount of resistance on the part of B which can be potentially overcome by A.” Power appears to involve one person changing the behaviour of one or more other individuals particularly if that behaviour would not have taken place otherwise.

Politics is common phenomenon in organization. It is used by people or group to gain power. Organizational politics involves those activities by organization, to acquire, develop and use power and other resources to get desired results in ambiguous situation (Pfeffer, 1981). Politics can be considered as a process of bargaining and negotiating that is used to overcome conflicts and differences of opinions. Political activity in organization results from conversion of power into action. It is the consequence of diversity of interests that exist in most human communities and more directly from attempts to use power to affect organizational decision making or from activities which are self-serving and not organizationally sanctioned. According to Tushman, politics refers to structure and process of the use of authority and power to affect the definition of goals, directions and major parameters of the organization. Miles described that organizational politics is the process whereby individual or groups use whatever power they can accumulate to influence organizational decisions in the direction of their own interests. Drory and Romm defined politics as intentional behaviour that are designed to enhance and project person’s interest and self-influence. It is established that political behaviour has some kind of power which can be used by those who have some formal positions and authority.

Organization politics is widespread due to several reasons. First is competition for power. Political behaviour develops as people want to derive power for their work satisfaction. Competition is required to grab power as resources are limited. Second reason is authority. During special needs or emergency, organizations provide discretionary authority to certain people. They use it at their individual judgement and create organizational politics. Ambiguity is the third reason of politics in organization. When roles and authority is not clear in organization, politics develops. People do mutual interactions to show better performance. Promotion is another reason for politics. Political behaviour also occur when an employee reaches his saturation point in his talent and skill.

Types of Power:

The Weeds

In this quadrant, personal influence and informal networks rule. I call it “the weeds” because it’s a dynamic that grows naturally, without any maintenance. It can be a good thing. For example, at one not-for-profit organization, the Secretary General was seriously underperforming, and sometimes acting unethically, leading staff to worry that they’d lose the support of key donors and government officials. As a result, an informal group regularly met to cover up his mishandling of situations. However, the problem became unsustainable and the same group, within the year, helped to ease him out to protect the organization’s reputation. Thus, the development of an informal coalition saved the organization and political activities, in this case, were a force for good.

But “the weeds,” if left unchecked, can also form a dense mat through which nothing else can grow. In these circumstances, informal networks can be a countervailing force to legitimate power and the long-term interests of the organization. For instance, they can thwart legitimate change efforts that are needed to put the organization on a sounder long-term financial footing.

The Rocks

Power in “the rocks” rests on individual interactions and formal (or “hard”) sources of authority such as title, role, expertise, or access to resources. It might also include political capital that arises from membership of or strong ties to a high status group such as the finance committee, a special task force, or the senior management team.

Consider a mid-sized advertising agency that was implementing a new growth strategy. The Chairman used his formal power to stop the changes. He would constantly question decisions agreed with the management team, change his mind from one meeting to the next, stop agreed allocation of resources to new structures, and take people off the special task forces, without notification. Here we see the formal use of hard power to satisfy self-interest over the firm’s longer-term value.

Navigating the terrain here relies on drawing on formal sources of power, rather than fighting against them. Your best bet is to redirect the energy of a dysfunctional leader, either through reasoned argument or by appealing to their interests. For example, in the case of the advertising company, senior executives used the argument of “leaving a legacy” to get the Chairman to see how he was undermining his own and company’s long term interests. In fact, it was this sort of political behavior and misuse of power that inspired Max Weber, a sociologist an early organizational scholar, to write the classic book Bureaucracy, where he argued that bureaucracy was the most rational and best way to organize and co-ordinate modern corporations. This leads us to take the high ground.

The High Ground

The high ground combines formal authority with organizational systems; Term ued to describe the rules, structures, policy guidelines, and procedures that form the basis of political activities. The benefits of these rules and procedures are they provide a check against the whims of individual level, charismatic or autocratic individuals. Thus, the ‘high ground’ provides guide rails for the rocks. It’s a functional political. Process that uses structures of control systems, incentives, and sanctions that keep the organization in compliance. However, as many executive know, rules and procedures can also lead to the company becoming overly bureaucratic, where rules are used as a political device to challenge interests not aligned with the bureaucrats, or to prevent innovation and change.

The Woods

In addition to their formal processes and guidelines, organizations also have implicit norms, hidden assumptions, and unspoken routines and that’s where we get into “the woods.” The woods can provide cover and safety for people in your organization; or they can be a bewildering place where good ideas and necessary changes get lost. Thus, here it is important to understand the woods from the trees as you can miss the former if you focus on the symptoms rather than the hidden barriers to strategy execution.

Strong implicit norms can define what is even discussable. In some organizations, for example, displays of emotion may be seen as socially undesirable, and so the organization finds ways to marginalize, ignore, or reframe any emotions that are shown. In other organizations, the display of certain emotions are essentially mandatory think of the smiling flight attendant.

Sources of Power

Power issues in organizations often focus on interpersonal relationships between managers and subordinates, or leaders and followers.

Coercive power (Punishment power): A power base dependent on fear. It is the ability to administer unpleasant consequences. The implied force relates to threats and punishments. Some forms of coercive power include verbal abuse, lack of support, and disciplinary actions.

Reward power: Compliance achieved based on the ability to distribute rewards that others view as valuable. Typical examples of rewards are salary increases, bonuses, and promotions. In addition, praise can be used as a rewar.

Referent power: Influence based on possession by an individual of desirable resources or personal traits (charismatic). It is based on interpersonal attraction. Followers identify with the leader and willing follow out of admiration and respect.

Expert power: Expert power is based on knowledge and/or skills. Followers must perceive the agent as an expert, and trust that the expertise is valid and that the knowledge or skills are relevant and useful to them.

Legitimate power: The power a person receives as a result of his or her position in the formal hierarchy of an organisation (position). Legitimate power is alike to authority, and is based on position and mutual agreement. This form of power is provided to individuals by the organization. Some managers resort to legitimate power if they are insecure with their ability to influence employees using other forms of power.

Consequences of Power

Power is the opportunity to develop and nudge history in different locations. Positive power in an organization involves encouraging efficiency. This includes giving employees the power to make decisions, rewarding workers for strong performance and appointing employees who perform strongly to control other employees. Positive power builds employee confidence and encourages workforce to work harder. It also results in those in higher-level positions gaining power through worker respect and communication, rather than coercive efforts. Employee withholding rates are high when employees are given the power to express concerns and work together in an organization. When leaders in an organization do not have the admiration of the employees under them, they have a negative power. This type of leader stimulate employees to perform by intimidating them with job loss and other punishments or shows partiality to certain employees rather than recognizing the hard work of multiple workers. Not only does the quality of work produced reduce under this type of power, but it leads to higher turnover rates in an organization. Power, and the struggle over it, describes the core of the political process. The open seeking of power is broadly considered a symbol of awful management.