Monday, November 11, 2013

ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR: POWER AND POLITICS THE PILLARS OF AN ORGANIZATION

Introduction
Organizations are started in order to process raw material resources using labor resources, both of which are called as “inputs” which are received from their environments into finished products and/or services, called as “outputs”.  These outputs are then traded in the environment for consumption. “Organizations can also be called as mechanisms through which many people combine their efforts and work together to accomplish much more than what one person alone can do”(Stephens).  This article will talk about organizational behavior in the light of power and the underlying politics.  (UNIT 1: INTRODUCTION TO ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR) lays down that organizations are social systems which have to be understood if one wishes to work in them. Organizational Power is defined as a capacity that X has to influence the behavior of Y; so that the latter does something he or she would not otherwise have done (http://www.iuc-edu.eu/group/sem1_L2/2010%20MBR/uop/MBR2010%20Lecture%209%20-%20Power%20and%20Politics.pdf).  This power can be wielded for the betterment of the organization, or for furthering personal agendas. In the latter case, it is called as Politics. This article describes organizational behavior in the light of organizational power and politics and seeks to explain the influence of power and politics in an organization using a case study. Finally, based on the research and the study on organizational behavior, power and politics, certain conclusions have been drawn on the subject.
Body
The Performance Equation is given as (Stephens):
JOB PERFORMANCE = ATTRIBUTES    X     WORK          X           ORGANIZATIONAL 
                                                                             EFFORT                            SUPPORT

So we can see in the above equation that Job Performance is a function of Organizational Support.  So even if you have the attributes and put in the necessary work effort, if there is no support from the organization, your job performance will be bad.  Each individual working in an organization pursues his own agenda in a job, thus he strives to serve his own selfish motives first and the organizations goals second. This is where politics comes into the picture. Since he pursues his self interests first, he cannot give the adequate support that his boss or subordinate requires in doing their respective jobs. This results in both the individuals mentioned not being able to do their jobs well. This leads to conflict and workplace politics. A majority of the times, workplace politics is a result of workplace diversity or workforce diversity. A workforce consisting of a broad mix of workers from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, of different ages and genders, and of different domestic and national cultures is prone to create workplace politics.
Power can be equated with influence (Johnson). At times, a position of authority within an organization lends power to a person, but it is pertinent to mention here that, borrowed power is not as long-lasting as that derived from leadership. Each organization has some people who command respect and exert influence by virtue of their leadership skills, while there are some managers who although enjoying  positions of high authority, still cannot get their work done.  Small business owners who wish to enhance their own influence and that of their managers should consider the five sources of power available at organizations. Three of these come with position, while two are available to anyone.  These five sources of organizational power are:
Legitimate Power: This power comes with the position a person enjoys in the hierarchy and it increases with the vertical elevation of the person in hierarchy(Johnson).
Coercive Power: This power is given to a person by virtue of his position and such a manager tends to use coercive power to influence the behavior of his subordinates (Johnson).
Reward Power: This power comes from a manager’s authority to dole out all kinds of rewards including raises and promotions, favorable reviews, shifts, positive attention and finally, mentoring(Johnson).
Expert Power: (Johnson) When a person possesses the expertise or skills that others value, then he is said to gain expert power. 
Referent Power (Johnson): Also called “charismatic power”, through which it seeks to describe this sort of power that a person has over another.  According to the authors of “Management; Meeting and Exceeding Customer Expectations,” each individual possesses some inherent referent power, although it may be in varying degrees.
Workplace politics (office politics or organizational politics) is the use of power within an organization for the pursuit of personal agendas without regard to their effect on the organization’s efforts to achieve its goals (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_politics). Both individuals and groups tend to engage in office politics to cater to their selfish motives, at the expense of the organization’s resources. Such self-serving political actions can harm social groupings, cooperation, information sharing and many other organizational functions.  
Case Study
A Real Estate Organization by the name of ABC recruited a Contracts Manager X (the student), to perform the commercial functions related to construction. Although, designated as “manager” he was the only member in the Contracts Department. He was asked to subordinate work to Y, designated as Asst Manager Billing and Contracts. X was asked to report to Gen Manager Projects, Z. Y was also asked to report to Z along with his reporting to X.
Now, Y had a personal agenda that he wanted to become a vendor for that Real Estate Organization, and he was taking the necessary steps towards his goal. All vendors required the nod of Z for being appointed as vendors. New vendors were appointed by the Real Estate firm with the joint approval of both X and Z, they both being involved with commercial duties. X checked their technical capabilities and Z checked their financial capabilities.
Now, Y was not financially capable, although, he was technically capable of becoming a vendor. The Organization had following stipulations for new vendors:
Ø  Vendor should have executed at least one project of INR 1.0 crore and above in the last 5 years
Ø  Vendor should have 15 years experience as an independent vendor in real estate projects
Ø  Vendor should have his own equipments for making site mixed concrete
Ø  Vendor should have his own skip and hoist for transporting the site mixed concrete to large heights
Ø  Vendor should submit a solvency certificate before being appointed
Ø  Vendor should submit the last 5 years ITR at the time of being considered for empanelment
Ø  Vendor should have a valid service tax and VAT registration at the time of empanelment
Ø  No Mobilization Advances will be given to empanelled vendors
Ø  Advances will be given to empanelled vendors against material dumped at site
Now, Y was not fulfilling a majority of the above stipulations. But, since he wanted to become a vendor, he started taking steps to enter the good books of the Gen Manager Projects. This is because, he knew that X was very straightforward and would not bend the rules for someone. But, he was sure that Z would consider his application for empanelment if he did all the work allotted by him. Therefore, he started devoting all his time to doing the work given by Z and started avoiding the work given by X.
As a result, X had to do all the work, which resulted in loss of his efficiency. He was in turn pulled up by Z for being slow in performing his duties. Now, X could not complain to him that Y was not helping him with the work as he feared that Z may not heed his complaint since he was a new member of the organization and was still in his probation period. Therefore, he silently kept on doing all the work that was required to be done. At the same time, he also heard the taunts of the Gen Manager Projects for being slow in his work. The Asst Manager Billing and Contracts left no stone unturned to put X into trouble and he saw to it that he received a lot of flak from Z for his work. Although, he was designed as a subordinate to X, he started diverting his work towards X. X, being new and not comfortable working with both Y and Z, silently did all the work, trying to bide his time until he completed his probation period.
Unfortunately, matters reached such a stage that X was asked to do Y’s share of work too as the latter was doing the work of Z, in trying to gain favor with Z.  This resulted in a dip in X’s efficiency and he became terribly slow in his work. So much so that he did not even have time to relax between activities. To say the least, he even did not have time for having his lunch.
Finally, one day, when tendering for a very prestigious project undertaken by the Organization was underway. Z asked Y to assist X in the tendering process. Y was ready to do this work because he was interested in knowing the rates given by the bidders so that he could put his own quote based on the information he gets about the lowest tender received. X knew Y’s intention and so he tried to keep him away from the quotes. But, finally on special instructions from Z, he had to relent and show him the sensitive information.  Y took in all the information about the lowest bidder and then he tailored his own quote lower than the lowest bidder and put it along with the quotes of the other bidders. Already, he had taken permission from the Gen Manager to insert his quote in the documents. The result was that Y got the project based on recommendations from Z, and he gave it off to some other vendor who gave him his percentage margin, for giving him the work. This information was leaked out to the owner of the Organization and he asked the new Contracts Manager to leave his job on grounds of not following the organizational rules.
Organizational politics in itself is a dangerous game, which requires an assumption of all risks like any contact sport. It has to be played with full diligence and a thorough understanding of the landscape, players and rules (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_politics).  One needs to be careful when forging alliances. Depending upon how the situation turns out, old alliances are to be forgotten and new alliances have to be entered into. When conflicts arise, employees who rely on hard facts will find it easier to diffuse the situation. Always looking out for the best interests of your company is the best way to insure that your motivation will remain unquestioned. Playing the game of organizational politics is necessary in today’s organizational atmosphere if one wants to grow vertically very fast, but this can also be very exhausting at times. In organizations today, which are politically charged, an exhaustive effort is required to just interact – let alone get one’s work done (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_politics).
The best ways to tackle organizational politics is to conceal one’s weaknesses, easing into situations carefully, picking battles with both subordinates and colleagues wisely, and modifying one’s approach if things are not panning out as expected. As long as one understands the landscape before playing this dangerous game. If all else fails, at times it is best to agree to disagree before the situation turns hostile. One should know when to say “I don’t know” and when to admit that one was wrong in assessing the situation and apologize. This is the best way to diffuse a conflict. In order for this tactic to succeed, it has to be used sparingly as otherwise it will lose its effectiveness and you may be labelled as incompetent. Being prepared beforehand is the key in any game we play and similar is the case with organizational politics. One must be physically prepared, know the rules, and know your opponents as well as your own team. The politican landscape must be read just like a cricket team captain reads the pitch before the toss to decide whether to pick bowling or fielding if he turns out the winner in the toss (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_politics).
Conclusion
From the above article, one can infer that power and politics have become synonymous with organizations today, whether they are private or government. If an employee has to work in them, then he has to understand the dynamics of how organizational politics works. Assuming an employee enters an organization at a certain position; he only has his legitimate power, conferred on him by his position. Once he starts working in the organization and starts exerting his legitimate power and at times coercive power, to get the things he wants for him to work efficiently. Once he completes his probation period, he starts understanding the organization and the rules by which it works. Then he gains expert power and reward power by performing diligently for a period of six months. Then he starts getting things done using these two sources of power. Finally, after having worked in the same organization for a period of one year or more, he gains what we can as referent power. This referent power gives him the opportunity to recommend an employee or an associate with whom the organization can work. The journey from legitimate power to referent power is a tough one strewn with thorns.





                                      



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