Everyone wants to succeed and almost everyone, if not everyone, has a personal agenda to accomplish those goals. In the workplace, this is certainly true.
Bolander (2011) states that “There is not an organization on earth (or space for that matter) that does not have to deal with politics… all organizations have some internal political struggle that can rip it apart” (Daily MBA, para. 1). Greenberg (2011) defines organizational politics as “actions by individuals that are directed toward the goal of furthering their own self-interest without regard for the well-being of others or their organization” (p. 435).
Perhaps if we asked most people outside of the trucking industry if they believed organizational politics only exists in large corporate settings, the answers would invariably be yes. What about trucking companies — do you believe those organizations deal with politics? What would the answer be? If you’re on the inside of trucking, hands-down, it is a thunderous YES! So, how do we identify this social ill and what’s the basis for it?
Mayes and Allen have a similar definition that “Organizational politics is the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to obtain sanctioned ends through non-sanctioned influence means” (p. 675). So it can be said once again, there is a lot of organizational politics when it comes to one’s self-gain. Is this right? Wrong? Is it ok if someone in authority does it, but not the employees below them? No doubt that if someone in authority is taking part in organizational politics, it will affect the entire organization.
Andrews and Kacmar (2001) state that organizational politics “are often enacted behind the scenes and typically occur in organizations in which there are few rules and regulations to guide decision-making” (p. 348). However, according to Harrell-Cook, Ferris and Dulebohn “Perceptions of organizational politics involves the individual’s subjective evaluation of observed situations or behaviors as political” (p.1095).
Now, an individual saying that someone’s motives are political is not necessarily going to be considered right or wrong. One would have to look at the big picture to see if the motives are political or not. If they are found to be political, Andrews and Kacmar (2001) go on to say that “Those who perceive politics occurring within their organization experience reduced job satisfaction and organizational commitment, increased job stress, and are more likely to leave the organization” (p. 349). One cannot blame someone for leaving an organization where organizational politics is going on, especially if they are not benefiting from it.
Bradshaw-Camball and Murray talk about organizational politics and state that three questions must be asked when it comes to the topic:
- Structure – Who are the parties involved and what are their interests? How much power do they have? What are the bases of power?
- Process – How is power used in pursuit of each party’s interests?
- Outcomes – When the process is over, who gets what? What is the impact on the ongoing relationship of the parties and on the others who comprise the organization and its stakeholders?” (p. 380).
All three areas covered by Bradshaw-Camball and Murray go along with Andrews and Kacmar’s thoughts, and that is how it ultimately will influence the employees willingness to continue working at their place of employment.
Now that it’s been covered as to what organizational politics are, what sort of forms do they take? Greenberg (2011) talks about various forms of organizational politics such as gaining control over – and selectively using – information, cultivating favorable impressions, and having a scapegoat (p.436). All of these items focus on one thing, and that is making sure the individual looks good and that it brings them success.
These methods can be considered highly immoral but to an extent, that is what organizational politics are about. One of the most common terms heard however, is the term “scapegoat.” Greenberg (2011) defines a scapegoat as “a person who is made to take the blame for someone else’s failure or wrongdoing” (p. 436). Most of the time this type of organizational politics is common amongst management trying to save their position and job. This is certainly not ethical, and taking actions such as having scapegoats will cause employee morale to drop.
Overall, an organization or even an individual will not completely escape the world that is organizational politics. Everyone will, in some way, shape, or form, experience it firsthand. It could be something that the individual does, or organizational politics affecting the way the individual does their job in the workplace. The main thing to look at is how the individual is going to handle it when they experience it. Will they try to stop it so it does not affect someone else or will they take part in it to gain something for themselves in the end?
Dr. David W. Guess
Executive VP | Safety & Human Resources, Usher Transport, Inc.
NATMI Academic Advisory Board Chairman
Andrews, M., & Kacmar, K. (2001). Discriminating among organizational politics, justice, and support. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22(4), 347-366. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3649544
Bolander, J. (2011, February 28). How to Deal with Organizational Politics. Retrieved from http://www.thedailymba.com/2011/02/28/how-to-deal-with-organizational-politics/
Bradshaw-Camball, P., & Murray, V. (1991). Illusions and Other Games: A Trifocal View of Organizational Politics. Organization Science, 2(4), 379-398. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2635171
Greenberg, J. (2011). Behavior in Organizations (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education
Harrell-Cook, G., Ferris, G., & Dulebohn, J. (1999). Political behaviors as moderators of the perceptions of organizational politics—work outcomes relationships. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(7), 1093-1105. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3100348
Mayes, B., & Allen, R. (1977). Toward a Definition of Organizational Politics. The Academy of Management Review, 2(4), 672-678. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/257520