Power and Politics
Webster’s defines politics as follows: “political affairs or business; especially: competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government), political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices; relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view” (MWOD, 2009). Organizational theories show people engage in politics to get power, however in this writer’s organization politics and power are associated, but they are indeed separate ends.
Power in organizations can be defined as “the ability to act or produce an effect b: legal or official authority, capacity, or right a: possession of control, authority, or influence over others” (MWOD, 2009). Compare and Contrast In organizations, power and politics come into play at all levels. Power and politics sometimes share similar bases. Power can be compared to politics in the way that they seek to increase the control and authority of those in power or engaged I politics (Grier, 2009). They are also similar as they share the same organizational goals.
Those in power and those who engage in politics in an organization are trying to better the company; the conflict generally comes to differing visions and ideologies. In contrast, politics does not have the claim to legitimate authority that power does. Power implies that the individual or group has the authority vested in that position to wield the power while politics is more coercive. Further politics seek to erode or replace power, in this politics is either undermining the current authority or trying to replace it with whom it chooses. Power seeks to extend or retain.
Organization and Leadership The politics and power structure of an organization can be shaped by the organizational structure and leadership of that organization. For organizations that are highly departmentalized and bureaucratic, politics will flourish and the power structure will dominate. In these organizations, being in a position of authority gives bounded power, trying to increase this power through politics in often the goal of those in authority (Rodriguez and Child, 2008). For those without power, using politics and coercion to get ahead or in the position of power is often the goal.
For these organizations the leadership must properly monitor the politics to ensure that the overall functioning of the company is unhindered by the politics. Leadership also must realize that there tenor as leader is also related to the politics in the organization; this puts power and politics on equal footing and will increase the stress throughout the organization. The other type of organization is one that has a transformational leader and a structure that gives autonomy to workers and work groups with a clear conflict resolution policy and clear organizational goals.
This leadership is one where the concerns of workers and management are readily addressed by the leadership (Jakarta Post, 2008). This type of leaders is able to inspire workers and management to focus on the organizational goals and leave the squabbles behind. The organization that has autonomous workers with a clear conflict resolution policy will be able to avoid destructive politics amongst its workers and managers. With clear company goals, the issues of the individual can be settled by finding a resolution that is in keeping with the goals of the organization.
Examples In the City of Belle Glade, they had elected a young Mayor on a reform platform. The local leaders who lost the election and the County government who didn’t like his policies engaged in the ‘politics’ to cut county funding and have a early elections. With the cut in funding and the policies he promised not coming on stream as planned, the new Mayor lost his seat and ‘power’ to the former Mayor. In the South Florida offices of a national organization, they replaced the outgoing manager with a woman from out of state.
The workers had seen the job as belonging to a colleague that has worked there for several years under the tutelage of the outgoing manager. They decided not to support the policies of the new manager and undermined her authority every opportunity. Eventually, she asked the head office to be reassigned. While the individual who the workers thought should get the job did his best to support the new manger and calm his colleagues, they continued until she was replaced by the individual they thought should get the job.