Managing Power & Politics


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Managing Power & Politics

  1. 1. Lesson 7 Managing Power & PoliticsAccording to Handy (1993), power and influence are central to organizations and interactions ofall people. Handy (1993) views organizations as a fine weave of influence patterns wherebyindividuals or groups seek to influence others to think or act in particular ways. Effective leadershave learnt how to use power wisely to influence others. In organizations, managers areentrusted with power in their respective positions and are perceived to have authority. However,managers are not the only holders of power as individual ability and leadership potential isinherent in many, resulting in many mangers being involved in a continuous struggle to maintaintheir power and authority.I. What is power?A. Power is “Something that person A has over another person B, to an extent that he can get B todo something B would not other wise do” Dahl (1957).B. Power is linked to influenceInfluence is “the effect of power exerted: a person exercising such power.” (Chambers 20thCentury Dictionary)“The process whereby A seeks to modify the attitudes and behaviors of B” Handy (1993).II. What are the various sources of power?Charles Handy (1993) outlines a number of possible sources of power that give one the ability toinfluence others: A. Physical powerThis is the power of superior force. That of a bully or the tyrant or commander of the army. Infew work organizations is physical power the source of individual influence. No organization hasa right to detain an individual by force (except for those involved in public safety, prison serviceor some mental hospitals). Physical power is really used as a last resort when other sources ofpower appear ineffective.B. Resource powerPossession of valued resource is a useful basis for influence. Another term for it is reward power.This is the power source implicit for most calculated contracts. In order for this kind of power tobe effective: There must be control of the resources, and The potential recipient must desire those resources.C. Position powerBusiness God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda, City Life Church (Student Notes with Answers) 37
  2. 2. This is also known as ‘legal’ or ‘legitimate’ power and comes from one’s position in a group ororganization. This is power residing in the position rather than in the individual. The value ofthis power really depends on the value placed by the guarantor of the position. If the occupant ofa particular role either: Does not receive backing from the organization, or the organization is not seen as controlling any desired or coercive resources,Then the occupant will find that influence attempts will fail, because their power source isinvalid. Position power gives the occupant potential control over some invisible assets such asinformation, right of access and right to organize.D. Expert powerHandy (1993) describes expert power as, “The power that is vested in someone because of theiracknowledged expertise.E. Personal powerThis is more generally known as charisma and resides in the person and their personality. It canbe enhanced by position or by expert status.F. Negative powerHandy (1993) points out that all these sources of power can be used legitimately orillegitimately. If they are used in the appropriate domain they are regarded as legitimate. If usedoutside the domain, the power is regarded as disruptive and illegitimate. This is the negative useof power.Negative power is the capacity to stop things from happening, to delay them, to distort them ordisrupt them. Negative power is latent; it does not operate all the time. It operates at times of lowmorale, irritation, stress, or frustration at the failure of other influence attempts. The use ofnegative power breeds lack of trust by the superior for the subordinate.G. Departmental powerCowling et al’s (1988) comment that some departments can have more power than others can beseen in the distribution of perks and resources within an organization, and which departmentstake a more dominant role in meetings and decision-making.SELF CHECK QUESTION: Do any of the above aspects of power apply to you in any way?III. What are some unseen methods of influence?The above six power bases allow people to use one or more methods of influence. These can bedivided into two classes - Overt and Unseen. Overt methods of influence include force,exchange, and persuasion. Unseen methods of influence include Ecology: This method isavailable, often neglected, and sometimes abused by every manager. In this instance, ecology isthe study of the relationship between an environment and its organisms. As politicians have alsodiscovered, we cannot afford to neglect the ecology of the organization, or the relationship of theBusiness God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda, City Life Church (Student Notes with Answers) 38
  3. 3. environment to individual behavior or attitudes. Behavior and attitudes occur within anenvironment that affects them.A. Physical environment.It is possible to manipulate the physical environment in order to somewhat control certainbehaviour:1. Noise affects performance on complicated tasks2. Variety relieves monotony, provides stimulation and contributes to improved performance3. Seating patterns tend to affect interaction patterns4. Open-plan offices are popular and improve communications when the work is routine5. Segregation prohibits communication6. Dangerous surroundings increase tension and lower productivityB. Psychological and sociological environment.In the psychological and sociological environments, Handy says that1. Small groups are easier to participate in than large groups2. Specific, challenging but attainable targets tend to produce commitments irrespective of their specific content3. Increased interaction leads to increased sentiments – either favorable or hostile4. Participation increases commitment if the individual considers participation worthwhile and legitimate.Therefore, to adjust the environment in order to remove constraints or facilitate some aspect ofbehavior is indirect influence. In short, ecology sets the conditions for behavior. The effectivemanager in an organization will check the environment before they act.C. Magnetism.Magnetism is the invisible but felt pull of a stronger force, and is the application of personalpower. We have all felt the desire, perhaps sometimes illogical, to work with and for someone.This method of influence is difficult to measure and can be very relative, but it cannot beignored. As leaders, very often the people we attract are those who are like us. As John Maxwell(1998) states, “Whom you get is not determined by what you want. It is determined by who you are…inmost situations; you draw people to you who possess the same qualities you do. That is the lawof magnetism: Who you are is who you attract.”DISCUSSION QUESTIONSWhich methods of influence are predominantly used in your organization?Is there any illegitimate use of power in your organization?IV. What is organizational politics?A. Politics is “the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by theorganization.” Bronston and Allen (1977) in Cowling et al (1988).B. Politics often has a distinct result as its goal.Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda, City Life Church (Student Notes with Answers) 39
  4. 4. “…Organizational politics refers to activities within organizations designed to acquire, develop,or use power in a conscious way to obtain one’s preferred outcomes or to manipulate a situationfor one’s own purposes.”Cherrington (1989).Pfeffer (1981) notes that ‘organizations, particularly large ones, are like governments in that theyare fundamentally political entities. To understand them, one needs to understand organizationalpolitics, just as to understand governments, one needs to understand government politics.’V. In what areas do organizations tend to be political rather than rational?Some research carried out by Miles (1980) identified several areas where organizations tend tobe political rather than rational: A. Resources There is a direct relationship between the amount of politics and how critical and scarce the resources are. Politics is also encouraged with the entry of new “unclaimed” resources. B. Decisions Ambiguous, uncertain and long-range strategic decisions lead to more politics than routine decisions. C. Goals The more ambiguous and complex the goals become, the more politics there will be. D. Technology and external environment In general, the more complex the internal technology of the organization operating in a turbulent external environment the more like there is to be politics. E. Change Reorganization, planned organizational development, or even unplanned change will encourage political maneuvering.Since these elements are prevalent in our organizations today, one can see why there is so muchpolitics. Miles (1980) states that “in short, conditions that threaten the status of the powerful orencourage the efforts of those wishing to increase their power bases will stimulate the intensityof organizational politics and increase the proportion of decision-making behaviors that can beclassified as political as opposed to rational.”Mintzberg (1983) points out that when these games are carried too far, they turn the wholeorganization into a political cauldron and divert it from its main task. Mintzberg notes thechoices that Hirschman presents to participants in a social system as:Stay and contribute – this is seen as loyaltyLeave – meaning to ‘take my marbles and go’Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda, City Life Church (Student Notes with Answers) 40
  5. 5. Stay and try to change the systemAs we explore organizational politics it is important to remember that one’s participation in it isoften a reflection of one’s source. Do you see God as your source of promotion or man? Do youtrust him to change situations or are you relying on your own flesh? Manipulative tactics oftentake place when we try to change people or situations apart from the Holy Spirit. Many of ushave been manipulative since childhood and are unaware of it. Having said this, Jesus instructsus to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. There is positive politics, which is whereone uses one’s understanding of the political environment for noble purposes.VI. What are some commonly used political strategies.Once it has been understood that organizations are in reality large political systems, one can seewhy there are many strategies for gaining power within these systems. Some of these strategiesare healthy whilst others are based on manipulation and lack integrity. Nevertheless, it isimportant to be aware of them, partly so that you are not always a victim of them.Luthan, Yulk and Falbe, and Mintzberg have all increased our understanding of commonly usedpolitical games and tactics. I have listed a number of these below. As you go through themreflect on which ones you have seen being used, which ones you have been a victim of andwhich ones you have sometimes used.A. Some of Luthan’s political strategies for gaining power in organizations. 1. Maintaining maneuverability 2. Promoting limited communication 3. Exhibiting confidence 4. Controlling access to information and persons 5. Making activities central and non-substitutable 6. Creating a sponsor –protégé relationship 7. Stimulating competition among ambitious subordinates 8. Neutralizing potential opposition 9. Making strategic replacements 10. Building personal stature 11. Employing trade-offs 12. Using research data to support one’s own point of view 13. Restricting communication about real intentions 14. Withdrawing from petty disputesB. Yulk and Falbe’s 8 Political Tactics.Yulk and Falbe (1990) recently carried out research on political tactics and derived eight that arecommon in organizations today. These can also be termed influence tactics. 1. Pressure tactics – the use of demands, threats, or intimidation to convince you to comply with a request or to support a proposal. 2. Upward appeals – persuading you that higher management, or appeals to higher management for assistance in gaining your compliance with the request approve the request. 3. Exchange tactics – making explicit or implicit promises that you will receive rewards or tangible benefits if you comply with a request of support a proposal, or remind you of a prior favor to be reciprocated.Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda, City Life Church (Student Notes with Answers) 41
  6. 6. 4. Coalition tactics – seeking the aid of others to persuade you to do something or using the support of others as an argument for you to also agree 5. Ingratiating tactics – seeking to get you in a good mood or to think favorably of the influence agent before asking you to do something 6. Rational persuasion – using logical arguments and factual evidence to persuade you that a proposal or request is viable and likely to result in the attainment of task objectives 7. Inspirational appeals – making an emotional request or proposal that arouses enthusiasm by appealing to your values and ideas, or by increasing your confidence that you can do it. 8. Consultation tactics – seeking your participation in making a decision or planning how to implement a proposed policy, strategy, or change.C. Mintzberg’s Political Games.Mintzberg (1983), in his comprehensive review of power and politics in organizations, hasidentified thirteen political games that by his definition involve illegitimate use of power, butmany of which use legitimate authority as part of the play. I have outlined just a few of thembelow:• Games to resist authority The insurgency games – to sabotage the intentions of superiors• Games to counter resistance The counter-insurgency games – more rules, regulations and punishments• Games to build power-bases The sponsorship game – hitching oneself to a useful superior, a star The alliance game – finding useful colleagues The empire game – building coalitions of subordinates The budgeting game – getting control of resources The expertise game – flaunting feigning expertise The lording game – flaunting one’s authority Discussion question In a group, explore and give examples of how the political strategies mentioned above may each manifest in the home, in organizations and in society at large. Highlight why people use them and the consequences thereof.Business God’s Way © Paul Nyamuda, City Life Church (Student Notes with Answers) 42