Power and Politics

Organizational Factors

Political activity is probably more a function of the organization’s characteristics than of individual difference variables.

When an organization’s resources are declining, when the existing pattern of resources is changing, and when there is an opportunity for promotions, politics is more likely to surface.

1. Cultures characterized by low trust, role ambiguity, unclear performance evaluation systems, zero-sum reward allocation practices, democratic decision making, high pressures for performance, and self-serving senior managers will create breeding grounds for politicking.

2. When organizations downsize to improve efficiency, people may engage in political actions to safeguard what they have.

3. Promotion decisions have consistently been found to be one of the most political in organizations.

4. The less trust there is within the organization, the higher the level of political behavior and the more likely it will be illegitimate.

5. Role ambiguity means that the prescribed behaviors of the employee are not clear.

  • There are fewer limits to the scope and functions of the employee’s political actions.
  • The greater the role ambiguity, the more one can engage in political activity with little chance of it being visible.

6.  Subjective criteria in the appraisal process; Subjective performance criteria create ambiguity.

  • Single outcome measures encourage doing whatever is necessary to “look good.”
  • The more time that elapses between an action and its appraisal
  • the more unlikely that the employee will be held accountable for his/her political behaviors.

7.  The zero-sum approach treats the reward “pie” as fixed so that any gain one person or group achieve has to come at the expense of another person or group. If I win, you must lose!

1. This encourages making others look bad and increasing the visibility of what’ you do.

8.  Making organizations less autocratic by asking managers to behave more democratically is not necessarily embraced by all individual managers.

  •  Sharing their power with others runs directly against some managers’ desires.
  • The result is that managers, especially those who began their careers in the 1950s and 1960s* may use the required committees, conferences, and group meetings in a superficial.
  1. The more pressure that employees feel to perform well, the more likely they are to engage in politicking.
  • If a person perceives that his or her entire career is riding on the next “whatever,” there is motivation to do whatever is necessary to make sure the outcome is favorable.
  1. When employees see top management successfully engaging in political behavior, a climate is created that supports politicking.

Impression Management

Impression management is sometimes referred to as “selfpresentation”. It is the process by which people try to manage or control the perceptions formed by other people about themselves. Often people like to present themselves in a socially desirable way and impress others. However, such attempts by subordinates to impress superiors can affect the validity of performance appraisal in organizations.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Organizational Behavior by Icfai Business School is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.