Organizations are organized bodies of systems made up of both human capital and material resources. The human resources within an organization transform the material resources to finished products or services. In the process of transformation, decisions or choices are made and involve some politics, while those making the decisions apply power to ensure their choices are accepted. This means the presence of power and politics in intra-organizational relations is un-debatable. In fact, survival in organizations involves power and political acts. Consequently, it is also undoubtedly true that power and politics greatly affect the organizational culture and can sometimes be used to break or make an organization’s productivity. In light of this, this study will consider the impact of power and politics in organization culture and recommend best practices that can be used to improve organizational culture. Ideally, to give a comprehensive overview, we first consider the influence of politics and power on organizations. [G1] It is clear that power and politics play a critically significant role in organizations influencing organization’s governance, employee behavior, and the decision-making process. Power and politics can also be reinforced in two dimensions; positive and negative. Negative power and politics can have a negative impact on organization culture leading to leaders and employees engaging in unethical behavior. Similarly, power and politics can also influence leadership positively or negatively. For instance, leaders can abuse power to introduce unfair treatment among employees. However, in the same way, that positive power and politics can be used to enhance organization culture, leaders can use it in their leadership for organizational success. [G2] [G3] In theory, this can be used by adopting complexity leadership, which is focused on organization success and not on the leadership of the individual.
[G4] [G5] [G6]
Power, Politics, and Organization Culture
Organizations consist of a group of people who work together towards a shared goal or objectives. According to Grieves (2010), organizations are neither rational nor harmonious. Rather, they can be perceived as a politically negotiated order, where survival is based on a political act. Thus, organizational life is often dominated by political interactions and involves the tactical use of power to acquire or retain control of corporate resources. [G7] [G8] [G9] In this context, we explore various ways in which power and politics affect organizational culture, and especially at Macy’s Inc. We also give an overview of the sources of power and describe various ways that management can use it to benefit various departments and improve organizational performance. Along with that, we analyze the influence of study of power and politics on leadership behaviors and improving organization’s culture. Lastly, we review the significance and complexity of leadership behavior and its impact on organizational structure and performance. [G10] [G11]
Influence of Power and Politics
Power and politics play a critically significant role in organizations ranging from governance, decision-making, to the behavior of employees in the work environment. Within the organizational setting, the influence of power is based on the use of employees’ negative or positive power to influence others (Bauer & Erdogan, 2012). Ideally, positive power is used to encourage employees for increased productivity. Mostly, employees are given the power to decide, leaders reward for strong performance, and promotion of employees who perform better than other workers. Positive power in the organization is also used to motivate employees to improve their performance and boosts their confidence. The influence of positive power is also reflected in leadership as employees respect them and enable effective communication. Negative power in an organization involves using negative reinforcements such as threat[G12] ening employees, punishment or showing favoritism to a specific group of employees. On the other hand, politics often affect the person who has power and determines the overall culture of the organization. Employees who manage to sail through the politics of an organization, often have an easy time and are more productive. Leaders must, therefore, focus on creating a political culture that is easy for employees to learn through clear policies and [G13] [G14] [G15] [G16] organizational structure that are not too complicated for employees to get answers. When negatively implemented, politics can encourage employees and leaders to engage in dishonest and unethical behavior and may lead to decreased organization productivity and staff turnover. In the case of Macy’s Inc, the organization has been battling with decreasing sales. Part of the reasons associated with the drop in sales is a mediocre customer service both in-line and on-line and careless employees who are not bothered about tidying the retail outlets. The behavior of the employees at Macy’s Inc can be associated with negative power reinforcement, where they have acquired unethical behavior when dealing with clients or when working. [G17]
Sources of Power
Like many other English words, power has several definitions. For instance, power is defined as the ability to use force and mobilize resources, information, [G18] and people to achieve a certain goal (French, 2011). Power is also defined as the ability of an individual to impose their will against despite resistance from others. Still, power is described as the ability [G19] of one person to influence the behavior of other people. From whichever definition, it is clear that sanctions are inherently embedded in power. Within organizations, power comes from different sources. The first source of power is the legitimate power also referred to as formal authority, which is power than upon the belief that an individual has a right over others (Harris & Hartman, 2001). For example, the manager or any other structural position is likely to provide various bases to power. Occupants of the specific office may also have the capacity to influence certain norms in the organization. The second source of power is the referent power, which comes from the attraction of other people towards an individual’s characteristics who they admire and emulate. Personal characteristics marked by charisma are some of the extraordinary and mystical sources of referent power. Charismatic leaders can influence others through their verbal skills and ability to argue effectively or physical attributes such as a disability. [G20] [G21] The third source of power is coercive power coming from the right to punish people who commit offenses. Within the organizational setting, coercive power is demonstrated in various forms such as managers suspending unethical [G22] employees. Lastly, [G23] we have reward power, which involves the ability to give an award to another individual. For instance, the secretary to the boss can make it easier for some people or harder for others to get the attention of the boss. Another example is the technical person who helps an individual in a presentation while leaving others to solve it alone.[G24] [G25] [G26] [G27] [G28] [G29] [G30]
Leadership Behavior and Culture
Power in leadership has both negative and positive influences over those who have it. History indicates that power can be intoxicating and devastating as well when abused (Bauer, & Erdogan, 2012). One of the reasons that make it easy for individuals to abuse power is because of the ability to conform to various elements such as social norms. However, as Bauer and Erdogan note, conformity is also likely to influence leaders to engage in unethical behaviors, especially if the behavior is acquired from someone in a higher level of power. Consequently, when leaders are intoxicated with power, they are likely to engage in some torturous behavior. This can be supported by the Zimbardo Stanford Prison experiment, where the participants who were guards became violent with the prisoners. Apart from the negative impact of power on [G31] leadership, power also can influence leaders positively. When this happens, leaders can influence employees and even those above them by articulating a clear vision and guiding people towards the end goal. Virtually, positive influence on leadership can transform the organizational culture and improve efficiency and employee productivity. [G32] [G33] [G34] [G35] [G36] [G37] [G38] Along with power, organization politics are intrinsically intertwined and are usually informal and unofficial sometimes held behind the scene. Politics are part of the organization, but just like power, they also have a negative and positive influence. For instance, leaders might develop self-serving behaviors by undermining fairness to those who do not participate in office politics. When such happens, employees are more likely to feel demoralized and lose their interest in their commitment towards organization success. Leaders can also use office politics to improve employee morale and work performance when they engage them in small office talks. [G39] [G40] [G41] [G42] [G43]
Ideally, complexity leadership is based upon the application of the complexity theory to elaborate the organizational behavior and leadership practice. By definition, complexity is used to describe a dynamic and changing system where relationships cannot be explained by merely analyzing its components (Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2008).Complexity is also used to describe the interconnectedness and dynamic interactions between complex systems that are richly interactive and unpredictable. Apparently, complexity leadership in organizations is significant because it encourages leaders to focus on developing their ability to influence organizational behavior to increase productivity. The fundamental concept of knowledge production and dynamics of informal networks should be activated, instead of suppressing them. Consequently, within complexity leadership concepts, the capacity of the organization is attributed to success and not on leadership charisma.[G44]
From the evaluation of the impact of power and politics within the organizational setting, it is contended that both of them are realities and are intrinsically good and bad. Leaders [G45] must recognize the right way to use power and politics in constructive ways that will benefit the organization.
Bauer, T., & Erdogan, B. (2012). An introduction to organizational behavior. Retrieved from: https://2012books.lardbucket.org/pdfs/an-introduction-to-organizational-behavior-v1.1.pdf
French, R. (2011). Organizational behaviour. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Grieves, J. (2010). Organizational change: Themes & issues. New York: Oxford University Press.
Harris, O. J., & Hartman, S. J. (2001). Organizational Behavior. Binghamton, NY: Best Business Books.
Uhl-Bien, M., & Marion, R. (2008). Complexity leadership: Part 1. Charlotte, NC: IAP, Information Age Pub.
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