13.4 Organizational Politics – Organizational Behavior (2023)

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand what organizational politics are.
  2. Examine political behavior within organizations.

Organizational Politics

Organizational politics are informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or achieve other targeted objectives (Brandon & Seldman, 2004; Hochwarter, Witt, & Kacmar, 2000). Politics has been around for millennia. Aristotle wrote that politics stems from a diversity of interests, and those competing interests must be resolved in some way. “Rational” decision making alone may not work when interests are fundamentally incongruent, so political behaviors and influence tactics arise.

Today, work in organizations requires skill in handling conflicting agendas and shifting power bases. Effective politics isn’t about winning at all costs but about maintaining relationships while achieving results. Although often portrayed negatively, organizational politics are not inherently bad. Instead, it’s important to be aware of the potentially destructive aspects of organizational politics in order to minimize their negative effect. Of course, individuals within organizations can waste time overly engaging in political behavior. Research reported in HR Magazine found that managers waste 20% of their time managing politics. However, as John Kotter wrote in Power and Influence, “Without political awareness and skill, we face the inevitable prospect of becoming immersed in bureaucratic infighting, parochial politics and destructive power struggles, which greatly retard organizational initiative, innovation, morale, and performance” (Kotter, 1985).

In our discussion about power, we saw that power issues often arise around scarce resources. Organizations typically have limited resources that must be allocated in some way. Individuals and groups within the organization may disagree about how those resources should be allocated, so they may naturally seek to gain those resources for themselves or for their interest groups, which gives rise to organizational politics. Simply put, with organizational politics, individuals ally themselves with like-minded others in an attempt to win the scarce resources. They’ll engage in behavior typically seen in government organizations, such as bargaining, negotiating, alliance building, and resolving conflicting interests.

Politics are a part of organizational life, because organizations are made up of different interests that need to be aligned. In fact, 93% of managers surveyed reported that workplace politics exist in their organization, and 70% felt that in order to be successful, a person has to engage in politics (Gandz & Murray, 1980). In the negative light, saying that someone is “political” generally stirs up images of back-room dealing, manipulation, or hidden agendas for personal gain. A person engaging in these types of political behaviors is said to be engaging in self-serving behavior that is not sanctioned by the organization (Ferris et al., 1996; Valle & Perrewe, 2000; Harris, James, & Boonthanom, 2005; Randall et al., 1999).

Examples of these self-serving behaviors include bypassing the chain of command to get approval for a special project, going through improper channels to obtain special favors, or lobbying high-level managers just before they make a promotion decision. These types of actions undermine fairness in the organization, because not everyone engages in politicking to meet their own objectives. Those who follow proper procedures often feel jealous and resentful because they perceive unfair distributions of the organization’s resources, including rewards and recognition (Parker, Dipboye, & Jackson, 1995).

Researchers have found that if employees think their organization is overly driven by politics, the employees are less committed to the organization (Maslyn & Fedor, 1998; Nye & Wit, 1993), have lower job satisfaction (Ferris et al., 1996; Hochwarter et al., Kacmar et al., 1999), perform worse on the job (Anderson, 1994), have higher levels of job anxiety (Ferris et al., 1996; Kacmar & Ferris, 1989), and have a higher incidence of depressed mood (Byrne et al., 2005).

The negative side of organizational politics is more likely to flare up in times of organizational change or when there are difficult decisions to be made and a scarcity of resources that breeds competition among organizational groups. To minimize overly political behavior, company leaders can provide equal access to information, model collaborative behavior, and demonstrate that political maneuvering will not be rewarded or tolerated. Furthermore, leaders should encourage managers throughout the organization to provide high levels of feedback to employees about their performance. High levels of feedback reduce the perception of organizational politics and improve employee morale and work performance (Rosen, Levy, & Hall, 2006). Remember that politics can be a healthy way to get things done within organizations.

Antecedents of Political Behavior

Individual Antecedents

There are a number of potential individual antecedents of political behavior. We will start off by understanding the role that personality has in shaping whether someone will engage in political behavior.

Political skill refers to peoples’ interpersonal style, including their ability to relate well to others, self-monitor, alter their reactions depending upon the situation they are in, and inspire confidence and trust (Ferris et al., 2000). Researchers have found that individuals who are high on political skill are more effective at their jobs or at least in influencing their supervisors’ performance ratings of them (Ferris, Fedor, & King, 1994; Kilduff & Day, 1994). Individuals who are high in internal locus of control believe that they can make a difference in organizational outcomes. They do not leave things to fate. Therefore, we would expect those high in internal locus of control to engage in more political behavior. Research shows that these individuals perceive politics around them to a greater degree (Valle & Perrewe, 2000). Investment in the organization is also related to political behavior. If a person is highly invested in an organization either financially or emotionally, they will be more likely to engage in political behavior because they care deeply about the fate of the organization. Finally, expectations of success also matter. When a person expects that they will be successful in changing an outcome, they are more likely to engage in political behavior. Think about it: If you know there is no chance that you can influence an outcome, why would you spend your valuable time and resources working to effect change? You wouldn’t. Over time you’d learn to live with the outcomes rather than trying to change them (Bandura, 1996).

Figure 13.10

Individual and organizational antecedents can both lead to political behavior.

Organizational Antecedents

Scarcity of resources breeds politics. When resources such as monetary incentives or promotions are limited, people see the organization as more political. Any type of ambiguity can relate to greater organizational politics. For example, role ambiguity allows individuals to negotiate and redefine their roles. This freedom can become a political process. Research shows that when people do not feel clear about their job responsibilities, they perceive the organization as more political (Muhammad, 2007). Ambiguity also exists around performance evaluations and promotions. These human resource practices can lead to greater political behavior, such as impression management, throughout the organization. As you might imagine, democratic decision making leads to more political behavior. Since many people have a say in the process of making decisions, there are more people available to be influenced.

(Video) 13.4 Learning in the organisation

OB Toolbox: Overcoming Ineffective Politics

Author and consultant Patrick Lencioni recommends the following four steps for overcoming ineffective politics due to turf wars. When members of the organization are more concerned about their own area of operations than doing what’s best for the entire organization, in the long run you may have a problem with turf wars. Taking these four steps can help overcome this situation:

  1. Create a thematic goal. The goal should be something that everyone in the organization can believe in, such as, for a hospital, giving the best care to all patients. This goal should be a single goal, qualitative, time-bound, and shared.
  2. Create a set of defining objectives. This step should include objectives that everyone agrees will help bring the thematic goal to fruition.
  3. Create a set of ongoing standard operating objectives. This process should be done within each area so that the best operating standards are developed. These objectives should also be shared across the organization so everyone is aware of them.
  4. Create metrics to measure them. Measuring whether the standard operating objectives get done is a vital step in the process. Rather than someone else pointing out what isn’t working, all the people within the department will have the information necessary to come to this conclusion and correct the problem, because ultimately, everyone in the organization cares about achieving the thematic goal.

Source: Adapted from information in Lencioni, P. M. (2006). Silos, politics and turf wars: A leadership fable about destroying the barriers that turn colleagues into competitors. New York: Jossey-Bass.

Key Takeaway

Organizational politics is a natural part of organizational life. Organizations that are driven by unhealthy levels of political behavior suffer from lowered employee organizational commitment, job satisfaction, and performance as well as higher levels of job anxiety and depression. Individual antecedents of political behavior include political skill, internal locus of control, high investment in the organization, and expectations of success. Organizational antecedents include scarcity of resources, role ambiguity, frequent performance evaluations and promotions, and democratic decision making.

Exercises

  1. Do you think politics are a positive or negative thing for organizations? Why?
  2. Describe an example of a negative outcome due to politics.
  3. Describe an example of a positive outcome due to politics.
  4. Can you think of additional individual or organizational antecedents of political behavior?
  5. What political behaviors have you observed within school groups or your workplace? Were they successful? Why or why not?
(Video) Organizational Behaviour, Group 4 Presentation, Chapter 13-14: Power-Politics & Conflict-Negotiation

References

Anderson, T. P. (1994). Creating measures of dysfunctional office and organizational politics: The DOOP and short-form DOOP scales psychology. Journal of Human Behavior, 31, 24–34.

Bandura, A. (1996). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Worth Publishers.

Brandon, R., & Seldman, M. (2004). Survival of the savvy: High-integrity political tactics for career and company success. New York: Free Press.

Byrne, Z. S., Kacmar, C., Stoner, J., & Hochwarter, W. A. (2005). The relationship between perceptions of politics and depressed mood at work: Unique moderators across three levels. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10(4), 330–343.

(Video) 13.4 Learning in the organisation

Ferris, G. R., Fedor, D. B., & King, T. R. (1994). A political conceptualization of managerial behavior. Human Resource Management Review, 4, 1–34.

Ferris, G. R., Frink, D. D., Galang, M. C., Zhou, J., Kacmar, K. M., & Howard, J. L. (1996). Perceptions of organizational politics: Prediction, stress-related implications, and outcomes, Human Relations, 49, 233–266.

Ferris, G. R., Frink, D. D., Bhawuk, D. P., Zhou, J., & Gilmore, D. C. (1996). Reactions of diverse groups to politics in the workplace. Journal of Management, 22, 23–44.

Ferris, G. R., Perrewé, P. L., Anthony, W. P., & Gilmore, D. C. (2000). Political skill at work. Organizational Dynamics, 28, 25–37.

Gandz, J., & Murray, V. V. (1980). The experience of workplace politics. Academy of Management Journal, 23, 237–251.

Harris, K. J., James, M., & Boonthanom, R. (2005). Perceptions of organizational politics and cooperation as moderators of the relationship between job strains and intent to turnover. Journal of Managerial Issues, 17, 26–42.

Hochwarter, W. A., Ferris, G. R., Laird, M. D., Treadway, D. C., & Gallagher, V. C. (in press). Nonlinear politics perceptions—work outcomes relationships: A three-study, five-sample investigation. Journal of Management.

Hochwarter, W. A., Witt, L. A., & Kacmar, K. M. (2000). Perceptions of organizational politics as a moderator of the relationship between conscientiousness and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 472–478.

Kacmar, K. L., Bozeman, D. P., Carlson, D. S., & Anthony, W. P. (1999). An examination of the perceptions of organizational politics model: Replication and extension. Human Relations, 52, 383–416.

Kacmar, K. M., & Ferris, G. R. (1989). Theoretical and methodological considerations in the age-job satisfaction relationship. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 201–207.

(Video) 13.4 Monitor Stakeholder Engagement | PMBOK Video Course

Kilduff, M., & Day, D. (1994). Do chameleons get ahead? The effects of self-monitoring on managerial careers. Academy of Management Journal, 37, 1047–1060.

Kotter, J. (1985). Power and influence. New York: Free Press.

Maslyn, J. M., & Fedor, D. B. (1998). Perceptions of politics: Does measuring different loci matter? Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 645–653.

Muhammad, A. H. (2007, Fall). Antecedents of organizational politic perceptions in Kuwait business organizations. Competitiveness Review, 17(14), 234.

Nye, L. G., & Wit, L. A. (1993). Dimensionality and construct validity of the perceptions of politics scale (POPS). Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53, 821–829.

Parker, C. P., Dipboye, R. L., & Jackson, S. L. (1995). Perceptions of organizational politics: An investigation of antecedents and consequences. Journal of Management, 21, 891–912.

Randall, M. L., Cropanzano, R., Bormann, C. A., & Birjulin, A. (1999). Organizational politics and organizational support as predictors of work attitudes, job performance, and organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20, 159–174.

Rosen, C., Levy, P., & Hall, R. (2006, January). Placing perceptions of politics in the context of the feedback environment, employee attitudes, and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(10), 21.

Valle, M., & Perrewe, P. L. (2000). Do politics perceptions relate to political behaviors? Tests of an implicit assumption and expanded model. Human Relations, 53, 359–386.

FAQs

What is organizational politics in organizational behavior? ›

"Organizational politics are self-serving behaviors" that "employees use to increase the probability of obtaining positive outcomes in organizations". Influence by individuals may serve personal interests without regard to their effect on the organization itself.

What are the 4 types of organizational behavior? ›

The four elements of organizational behavior are people, structure, technology, and the external environment.

What are the four types of organizational politics? ›

The woods, the weeds, the rocks, the high ground.

How organizational politics influenced the overarching organizational behavior? ›

Simply put, with organizational politics, individuals ally themselves with like-minded others in an attempt to win the scarce resources. They'll engage in behavior typically seen in government organizations, such as bargaining, negotiating, alliance building, and resolving conflicting interests.

What are the examples of organizational politics? ›

What are the six different types of organizational politics?
  • Self-promotion. Self-promotion happens when an individual works to further their own career, regardless of who they step on in the process. ...
  • Office politics. ...
  • Factionalism. ...
  • Gatekeeping. ...
  • Territorialism. ...
  • Bossism.
24 Nov 2021

Why is organizational politics important? ›

Organizational politics is important since it provides an understanding of the informal processes of conflicts and co-operations in organizations, and their impact on the organizational performance.

What are the 2 main types of behavior? ›

Voluntary and Involuntary Behavior

Voluntary Behavior: It is a type of behavior that depends on human want. We can characterize walking, speaking, and writing as voluntary behaviors. Involuntary Behavior: Unlike voluntary behavior, this type occurs naturally and without thinking.

What are the 3 goals of organizational behavior? ›

“The goals of OB [organizational behavior] are to explain, predict, and influence behavior. Managers need to be able to explain why employees engage in some behaviors rather than others, predict how employees will respond to various actions and decisions, and influence how employees behave.” — Open Class.

What are the 3 levels of organizational behavior? ›

The most widely accepted model of OB consists of three interrelated levels: (1) micro (the individual level), (2) meso (the group level), and (3) macro (the organizational level). The behavioral sciences that make up the OB field contribute an element to each of these levels.

What are the 3 types of political systems? ›

To theorize and understand corruption in a political context, Johnston (2005) reclassifies the three main political systems (i.e. democratic, hybrid and authoritarian) into four regime types: Developed liberal democracies. New or reforming democracies.

What are the impacts of organizational politics? ›

Organizational politics affect the company's performance in a negative way. In fact, it will demotivate employees, increase the levels of stress and even change the attitude of employees towards work. This will facilitate reduction of a company's productivity.

What are the causes of organization politics? ›

Reasons For Organizational Politics
  • Power Struggles. Internal power struggles are perhaps the number one reason behind organizational politics. ...
  • Inability To Adjust To Change. ...
  • Lack Of Clarity. ...
  • Jealousies. ...
  • Lack Of Trust. ...
  • Reward Systems. ...
  • Reduce Uncertainty In The Workplace. ...
  • Promote Collaborative Working.
3 Feb 2022

How useful is organizational politics in achieving organizational goals? ›

Organizational politics can be a curse and negatively affect job performance. Even though politics is not necessarily bad, it can waste valuable time in organizations and distract employees from focusing on their job performance. Managers can waste a lot of time managing politics.

How can Organisational politics be used to success? ›

Seven Survival Tips for Office Politics
  1. Analyze the Organization Chart. Office politics often circumvent the formal organizational structure. ...
  2. Understand the Informal Network. ...
  3. Build Connections. ...
  4. Develop Your "People Skills" ...
  5. Make the Most of Your Network. ...
  6. Be Brave – but Not Naive. ...
  7. Neutralize Negative Politics.

How does political factors affects the operation of an organization? ›

Governments can raise or lower corporation tax , which will impact on profits. They can also affect businesses by increasing value-added tax on products or business rates. They can bring in new laws like the National Minimum Wage , which impacts on profits and employment rights.

What type of organization is a political organization? ›

A political organization subject to Code section 527 is a party, committee, association, fund or other organization (whether or not incorporated) organized and operated primarily for the purpose of directly or indirectly accepting contributions or making expenditures, or both, for an exempt function.

How does Organisational politics affect performance? ›

Politics lowers the output of an individual and eventually affects the productivity of the organization. Common observation says that individuals who play politics at the workplace pay less attention to their work. They are more interested in leg pulling and back biting.

How can Organisational politics be controlled? ›

How to Manage Organizational Politics
  1. Get the lay of the land. Do you know if your employees feel like they have to engage in some political jockeying in order to get ahead — or at least not fall behind? ...
  2. Keep close tabs on undercurrents. ...
  3. Step in when necessary. ...
  4. Don't play favorites. ...
  5. Be a good role model.
22 Sept 2020

How is behaviour formed? ›

Behavior is driven by genetic and environmental factors that affect an individual. Behavior is also driven, in part, by thoughts and feelings, which provide insight into individual psyche, revealing such things as attitudes and values.

Why is behavior important in the workplace? ›

A positive behaviour at work from employees leads to higher productivity and performance by the team and the individual. People who behave more professionally and efficiently at work often eventually become irreplaceable employees.

What are the 4 elements of organizational behavior explain with examples? ›

But regardless of how much material there is, there are four key elements to keep in mind when applying organizational behavior theory to the workplace. They are people, structure, technology, and environment.

What is organizational behavior example? ›

These forms of behavior are proactive in nature and act to improve situations for the individual, group, or organization. Examples of these behaviors include issue selling, taking initiative, constructive change-oriented communication, innovation, and proactive socialization.

What are the types of organizational behavior? ›

There are five (5) models of organizational behavior: autocracy, custodial, supportive, collegial, and system models. Every model has three impact elements, based on management orientation, employee side with three sub-elements, and performance results.

What are the 3 basic elements of organization? ›

The three components of organizational success—structure, talent, and behavior—cannot stand alone and must be in balance with each other. Take a holistic view when focusing on any one of these elements to ensure one area does not become disproportionately stronger than the others.

What are the functions of politics? ›

A variety of methods are deployed in politics, which include promoting one's own political views among people, negotiation with other political subjects, making laws, and exercising internal and external force, including warfare against adversaries.

What is the role of political structure? ›

In a general sense, it refers to institutions or even groups and their relations to each other, their patterns of interaction within political systems and to political regulations, laws and the norms present in political systems in such a way that they constitute the political landscape and the political entity.

What is a political process? ›

Political opportunity theory, also known as the political process theory or political opportunity structure, is an approach of social movements that is heavily influenced by political sociology. It argues that success or failure of social movements is affected primarily by political opportunities.

How does Organisational politics impact the strategic decision making process? ›

Organizational politics focuses on the use of power to affect decision making and organizational behaviors. The political behaviors are activities that are not required of someone in their formal role, but that influence, or can attempt to influence pros and cons within a company (Robbins & Judge, 2012).

What is the role of organizational politics in the motivation of employees? ›

Good leaders with their functional political behavior generate a positive power within the organization. Giving employees the power to make decisions, and take necessary actions make them feel involved.

What are the personal advantages of organizational politics? ›

Madison et al., for example, in their interviews of 87 managers, found that politics had beneficial individual and organizational outcomes. Some of the benefits for individuals included career advancement, recognition, 'getting the job done,' and promoting ideas.

What is political organization in simple words? ›

A political organization subject to Code section 527 is a party, committee, association, fund or other organization (whether or not incorporated) organized and operated primarily for the purpose of directly or indirectly accepting contributions or making expenditures, or both, for an exempt function.

What are organizational political factors? ›

Political factors include elements such as tax policies, changes in trade restrictions and tariffs, and the stability of governments.

What are the organizational policies? ›

An organization policy is a configuration of restrictions. You, as the organization policy administrator, define an organization policy, and you set that organization policy on organizations, folders, and projects in order to enforce the restrictions on that resource and its descendants.

What are the three types of political organization? ›

The major types of political systems are democracies, monarchies, and authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

Who defined organizational politics? ›

MAYES, B. T., & ALLEN, R. W. Toward a definition of organizational politics. Academy of Management Review, 1977, 2(4), 672-678.

How do you play politics in an organization? ›

Seven Survival Tips for Office Politics
  1. Analyze the Organization Chart. Office politics often circumvent the formal organizational structure. ...
  2. Understand the Informal Network. ...
  3. Build Connections. ...
  4. Develop Your "People Skills" ...
  5. Make the Most of Your Network. ...
  6. Be Brave – but Not Naive. ...
  7. Neutralize Negative Politics.

How can political factors affect an organization? ›

Governments can raise or lower corporation tax , which will impact on profits. They can also affect businesses by increasing value-added tax on products or business rates. They can bring in new laws like the National Minimum Wage , which impacts on profits and employment rights.

What is a political impact example? ›

Some examples are: Political decisions affect the economic environment. Political decisions influence the country's socio-cultural environment. Politicians can influence the rate of emergence of new technologies.

How can organizational politics be controlled? ›

Strategies For Managing Organizational Politics
  1. Reduce Uncertainty In The Workplace. ...
  2. Promote Collaborative Working. ...
  3. Keep Your Ear To The Ground. ...
  4. Be A Good Role Model. ...
  5. Be Transparent. ...
  6. Don't Have Favorites. ...
  7. Zero Tolerance Of Destructive Organizational Politics. ...
  8. Intervene When Necessary.
3 Feb 2022

How do policies help organizations? ›

Policies and procedures are an essential part of any organization. Together, policies and procedures provide a roadmap for day-to-day operations. They ensure compliance with laws and regulations, give guidance for decision-making, and streamline internal processes.

What are the 5 types of policies? ›

Categories of Policy Statements. There are various types of policy statements that each have their own style, scope, and purpose. These include human resources, financial, legal, safety, and operational policy statements.

How do you create an organizational policy? ›

How to Develop and Implement a New Company Policy
  1. Step 1: Identify the Need for a Policy. ...
  2. Step 2: Determine Policy Content. ...
  3. Step 3: Obtain Stakeholder Support. ...
  4. Step 4: Communicate with Employees. ...
  5. Step 5: Update and Revise the Policy.

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