Organizational Behavior (OB) “is the study and application of knowledge about how people, individuals, and groups act in organizations through the systems approach process” (NW link, par. 1). This means the organizational relationships are interpreted in terms of whole group, person, social system and organization. The purpose of organizational behavior in any organization is to ensure that there are better relationships that are built through the achieving of organizational, social and human objectives. For the objectives to be achieved there must be a well set system of power.
Power and politics are intertwined because all processes involved in the power of an organization involve politics. Therefore, all people in an organization have to be equipped so as to ensure they know how to play the organizational politics game. This is the only way that the members and leaders of an organization can survive (N W Link, par. 1). The terms ‘Power’ and ‘Politics’ in an organization are inseparable; where politics is normally demonstrated through the various sources of power. The Concept of Organizational Power From the days of early civilization, man has always been fascinated by power and is pushed by the desire to use it.
Generally, power is very important in all organizations so as to ensure that all the set goals and actions are fulfilled. Power is defined as “the ability that a person may use to get others to do what he or she wants to be done. The nature of power is control over other people” (Alexandrou, par. 4-5). In any organization, the power of an individual is derived from structural, interpersonal and situational bases. Basically, the interpersonal power is imposed on a person by the organization in accordance with the organizations prescriptions, and also by the rare qualities of the same person.
On the other hand, situational and structural powers, which involve decision making, information powers and resources are structured by the organization’s hierarchy (Alexandrou, par. 4-5). There is one fact about power in any organization; all people require it. The differences come in the intention and the degree of the power, whether the people are in need of low or high power and whether the power requirement in the organization needs close study due to its effects in the organization (Alexandrou, par. 6). Several problems that arise in organizations, for instance, corruption, are created by misuse of power by the top level managers.
In some cases, the managers lack skills and knowledge in managing the businesses. Lack of sufficient abilities disables the managers from functioning effectively, and therefore, their professional powers are underutilized. Additionally, some managers seek power in organizations for their own benefits. In the long run, the organization fails due to their cause. This is one of the situations where politics come in, as in such situations; the members may even form their own informal structures when they realize that the managers are not committed to the goals of the organization (Alexandrou, par.
7). Informal cultures are created in organizations by the members as a result of the existing organizational cultures. The informal culture is formed by the general perception of workers, which is based on acceptable norms and patterns. Small groups of workers develop their own set goals, subcultures and behavioral norms. These supplementary or sub-cultural groupings are referred to as informal work organizations or informal groupings. It is well described as, “An unprescribed affiliation of individuals whose relationships are not bound by formal authority” (Harnis and Hartman, 100).
The aim of these informal groups is to ensure that all goals are fulfilled by members even if they are not at per with the organizational formal structures. The informal sub-groupings are also responsible for revolt just incase they realize that the managerial system in the organization is dysfunctional, or that it is in the leadership because of its own desires. Therefore, the informal groupings in an organization are very important (Harnis and Hartman 100). Therefore, power is very vital to all people especially for ruling, promotion and leading.
All these intentions should be associated with the aims of the organization so as to ensure that the organization benefits in the long run. Therefore, it is important for all people to contribute to the organization, whether in the leadership team or the informal sub-groupings formed by the members of the organization. Wrong power application only leads to problems and changed attitudes of the people towards the organization, which finally leads to the downfall of the organization (Alexandrou, par. 8). Politics and Power: Intertwined Terms
There is a very close relationship between power and politics. Politics is defined as “who gets what, when and how” (AU). Therefore, this means that in an organization, when the leadership uses the various forms of power, they exercise politics. Politics is also defined as the “exercise of power to get something done, as well as to enhance and protect the vested interests of individual and groups” (AU). Organizational politics reveal that political activity is always used to overcome resistance. Additionally, it reveals the effort of the organizational opposition to challenge the existing conditions.
Therefore, organizational politics can be seen as a way in which the leaders or members use power vested unto them; where they use it as an origin of potential energy so as to manage organizational relationships (AU). The concept of competition in the organization clearly depicts the concept of politics. According to Rainey, (172), internal politics and power is usually affected by external politics and power. Additionally, units within the bureaucracies are in constant warfare and power struggles. Power and politics relate to all organizations, from government agencies to business firms.
In organizations, power competition exists at two levels. First, the individuals compete for power in organizations and agencies, the organizations and agencies in turn compete with the government context at large. In both cases, power is only attained when an organization or an individual gets the control of the scarce resources that the other competitors needed. When the means of getting power is the compelling physical force, this mechanism is viewed as political. The scarce resources are used as way of harming the others.
Competition in an organization can be destructive as well as constructive. For example, if the leadership at the top level is capable and wise, the organization benefits at the long run, even though it is still political. Therefore, competition of the people in power in any organization is a political process, and it can either be termed as constructive or destructive (AU) Organizational politics is best viewed through the political frame concept. There are four frames which are used to scrutinize organizations. These are in terms of human resources, symbolic, political and structural bases.
Organizations are viewed as coalitions of interest groups or individuals which are formed as a result of the need of support from each other by the members. Common objectives are produced through a negotiation process once the members combine forces. It is at this point that power bases are developed. Secondly, groups and individuals have enduring differences as far as information, preferences and beliefs are concerned (AU). Most vital decisions in virtually all global organizations involve scarce resources allocation.
It is this scarcity that leads to political behavior in most cases. Therefore, the work of the leaders in an organization and government agencies becomes more challenging. Conflict arises as a result of scarce resources. Ordinarily, power is the most vital resource to solve conflicts in organizational dynamics. As a result of the power, the leaders are able to solve the conflict and in the long run, come up with possible solutions (AU). Source of Organizational Power Researchers known as French and Raven came up with the five sources of power over forty years ago.
This list has been intact since time immemorial, even if several researchers have been constantly coming up with other sources of organizational power. They include coercive, legitimate and reward sources of power, as well as referent and expert sources. The first three powers are gotten from the position of the power holder, which means that the person receives power as a result of the position that is given to him, while the rest two originate from the characteristics of the power holder in any organization. In other words, these power bases are brought to the organization by the people.
When the different sources powers are exercised in different organizations, the concept of politics comes in (Alexandrou, par 1-2). The first source of power is the legitimate power, which refers to an “Agreement among organizational members that people in certain roles can request certain behaviors from others” (Alexandrou, par. 3). This right comes from the informal conduct rules as well as the formal descriptions in the organization. The executives in an organization have legitimate power. However, all the employees have this power which is based on the government laws and company rules.
For instance, the employees might be given the right to request for the files of the customers if at all the information concluded in these files is vital in their day to day operations (Alexandrou, par. 3). Legitimate power depends on mutual agreements from all those that are expected to abide by the existing authorities. The employees have to agree on whether to work overtime, for instance. Therefore, legitimate power is the authority of a person to ensure that there are discretionary decisions made, which all the followers agree to.
Those who comply with legitimate powers are those who are in ‘High Power Distance Cultures’, which refers to the situation where the organizational members fully accept unequal power distribution. On the other hand, legitimate power is less accepted in ‘Lower Power Distance Cultures’. These are the situations where there is equal distribution of power, and therefore it is usually difficult for the person to accept orders. In some organizations, legitimate power is perceived as strong in comparison to others. Therefore, some people may ignore orders from their bosses depending on the organization (Alexandrou, par.
3-45). In the recent days, employees of an organization are not usually comfortable with the organizations that operate on legitimate power. They are more comfortable in situations where they are involved in decision making (Alexandrou, par6) The second style of power is the Reward, which is gotten from the ability of the person to control rewards allocation which are valued by others as well as getting rid of negative sanctions, or what is commonly referred to as negative reinforcement in an organization. In most cases, managers have the formal authority over organizational rewards distribution.
These include promotions, vacation schedules, work assignments and time off (Alexandrou, par. 7). Thirdly, when punishment is applied in the organization, it is referred to as Coercive power. Managers usually demonstrate coercive power as they demote, reprimand and fire employees. All labor unions are required to use tactics of coercive power, such as influencing the management, withholding some services and negotiating through collective agreement. The members of the team apply sanctions such as ostracism and sarcasm.
This is in a bid to ensure that all the co-workers are in agreement with the norms of the team. Several firms often rely on the coercive power of all the members of the team so as to be able to control the behavior of the co-workers (Alexandrou, par 8). The fourth type of organizational power is the Expert power. Legitimate, Coercive and Reward power originates from this type of power. This is described as, “An individual’s or work units’ capacity to influence others by possessing knowledge or skills that they want (Alrexandrou, par. 9).
Organizations’ employees gain expert power when societies move from industrial to knowledge based economies. This is because the knowledge that the employees have is the means of production, and not an owner- controlled machine. If this control is absent, the owners will always be dependent on the workers so that they can achieve the objectives. This in job applicants as it can give them preferential working conditions as well as generous salaries (Alexandrou, par. 9). The last type of power in an organization is referred to as the referent power. When people are respected, they tend to get referent powers.
Just like the situation in expert power, referent power emanates from the organizations’ employees. It is slow in development, and is generally brought about by the functional skills of the person. Additionally, it is associated with charisma, which is commonly referred to as the interpersonal attraction which makes all followers trust and develop respect for the individual (Alexandrou, par. 10). Conclusion From the discussion above, it is evident that power and politics are almost inseparable. Any organization demonstrates power through politics.
This is after deciding on the best source of organizational power to use so as to ensure that all set goals of an organization are achieved. Therefore, the choice of the source of power to use in an organization reveals the type of organizational culture that is created in any society. Works Cited Alexandrou, Marios. Sources of Power in Organizations. Project Management, 2010. Web. 2 June, 2010, <http://www. mariosalexandrou. com/blog/sources-of-power-in-organizations/ AU. Strategic Leadership and Decision Making. Leveraging Power and Politics. National Defense University, 2010. Web.
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