To help us understand organizations, we might consider them as political systems. The political metaphor helps us understand power relationships in day-to-day organizational relationships. If we accept that power relations exist in organizations, then politics and politicking are an essential part of organizational life.
Politics is a means of recognizing and, ultimately, reconciling competing interests within the organization. Competing interests can be reconciled by any number of means.
For example, resorting to "rule by the manager" might be seen as an example of totalitarian rule. On the other hand, politics may be a means of creating a noncoercive, or a democratic work environment.
As mentioned, organizations need mechanisms whereby they reconcile conflicting interests. Hence, organizations, like governments, tend to "rule" by some sort of "system". This "system" is employed to create and maintain "order" among the organization’s members.
Systems of rule within organizations range from autocratic to democratic at the extremes.
Between these extremes we find bureaucratic and technocratic systems. Whatever the system, each represents a political orientation with respect to how power is applied and distributed throughout theorganization. Each type of organizational ;rule; simply draws on different principles of legitimacy.
According to Aristotle, politics stems from a diversity of interests. To fully understand the politics of the organization, it is necessary to explore the processes by which people engage in politics. Consistent with Aristotle’s conceptualization, it is a given that, within the organization, all employees bring their own interests, wants, desires, and needs to the workplace.
Organizational decision-making and problem- solving, while seemingly a rational process, is also a political process. Organizational actors seek to satisfy not only organizational interests, but also their own wants and needs; driven by self-interest.
Regardless of the degree to which employees may be committed to the organization’s objectives, there can be little doubt that, at least occasionally, personal interests will be incongruent with those of the organization. Organizational politics arises when people think differently and want to act differently.
The tension created by this diversity can resolved by political means. In an autocratic organization, resolution comes through the directive: ;We’ll do it my way!".
The democratic organization seeks to resolve this diversity of interests by asking: "How shall we do it?" By whatever means an organization resolves this diversity, alternative approaches generally hinge on the power relations between the actors involved.
According to Farrell and Peterson(Farrell and Peterson, 1982), the successful practice of organizational politics is perceived to lead to a higher level of power, and once a higher level of power is attained, there is more opportunity to engage in political behavior
The use of political tactics in organizations is widespread. Virtually every employee in America can recount a political incident in which he or she was directly or indirectly involved. The consequences of these political events lead those involved to view organizational politics in their own way. Some, who may have been negatively affected by a political incident, perceive it to be a negative influence in organizations, while others, mostly those whose position was advanced by political means, view it as a useful tool in an organization (Ferris & Kacmar, 1992). Since people act upon their perceptions of reality, not reality per se, recognizing and understanding employees’ perceptions of politics is of importance to organizations (Lewin, 1936; Porter, 1976).
The perceptions individuals hold about the political nature of their work environment influence the way they do their jobs. These perceptions affect how employees feel about their company, boss, and co-workers, and they impact the productivity, satisfaction, and intent to turnover of the workers (Ferris ; Kacmar, 1992). Individuals’ perceptions about politics in the organization also determine how political the environment will be. If employees perceive that others get ahead by acting politically, these individuals will be more likely to engage in political behaviors themselves Therefore, organizational culture is influenced by the degree of political activity found in an organization and how the employees in that organization react to these activities.
It has been suggested that political behavior in organizations will increase when rules and regulations are not available to govern actions (Kacmar & Ferris, 1992) In the absence of specific rules and policies for guidance, individuals have few clues as to acceptable behavior, and therefore, develop their own. When .