Organizational Politics – Should we care?

Today organizational politics is an inescapable and intrinsic reality of life in companies. They are so intricately woven with management systems that the relationships, norms, processes, performance and results are hugely influenced and affected by it. Generally they are related to leadership positions and can be better understood from the fact that organizational leadership occurs in the context of groups, where followers are influenced by the leader to ensure their commitment and voluntary involvement towards predetermined outcomes. This is an inevitable phenomenon in any organization especially at the leadership levels.

By definition, Politics means “an art of governing or controlling the social relations which involves maneuvering with an objective to gain authority or power or any other hidden interest”. But, there is nothing wrong in being politically savvy; however, some people attach it to not so positive side of being a politician or relate it with people in political career, which is not true. Whether we like it or not, we need to be politically correct in our approach towards organization and people but at the same time ensuring that the larger interests are not compromised at either level. Most people in the organizations would have themselves in such situations which could have been avoided had they demonstrated some political wisdom.

People have a biased thinking and they sometime tend to feel that being political is either protecting or promoting one’s self interest through different ways like –

· Attacking or blaming others
· Misuse of information
· Maneuvering the situations
· Creating a favorable image
· Developing a support base
· Flattery


But it can be an effective tool to meet organizational objectives protecting the interests of larger population. Those practicing office politics do not want to be portrayed as self-seeking or self-serving individuals. They seek to create the impression that they were acting out of some other higher motives. In my view, as HR professionals the only thing to watch out for is that the individual shouldn’t get into dysfunctional and unacceptable behavior in the organization.

Generally, higher level managers may even feel that what is good for them is also good for the organization. Office politics often threaten the accomplishment of tasks and irrespective of whether it has helpful or harmful effects on the individual or the organization, office politics is an important form of behavior in most of the organizations.

I don’t think we have a choice at leadership positions. We must understand this in right earnestness. The political climate of an organization is influenced by a leader through the use of authority under different settings which is clearly visible during the acts of decision making, setting agenda, interaction with others to mobilize support, inspire teams & individuals and recognize people. This interplay between the leaders and their authority & influence over the followers set the tone for political climate in an organization. Leaders often use political leverage available to them under different situations in order to promote the organizational interests.

One of the most important benefits is the political acumen of leaders can be put to test when dealing with aspects such as change management and crisis management. In such situations, leaders need to quickly identify the group which is going to support them and build a strong coalition with counter strategies backed by facts and reasons before the efforts begin on war footing. Also crucial at these times is the choice of the people made responsible to fight the battle and how critical support is made available to them through subtle changes in organization structure and resource allocation.

My recommendation to the fellow HR fraternity would be to be conscious and cognizant before involving yourself into such behavioral acts and anticipate the outcomes prior to practicing it. Let’s be watchful and protect the organizational interests as we are the officially appointed custodians of ethics and integrity.

4 comments:

  1. I agree. I have experienced that how powerful and strong the political attack is, truth though late eventually prevails. However, one should be really strong enough to defend oneself certainly through positive attitude.

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  2. Anonymous9:01:00 PM

    Actually I have seen and experienced in my career life, that Politics within the HR Team is more than the politics in the organization. Just to ensure their availability in the organization or in the department or to create a power centre people using this as a tool. In today's scenario, Few employees are just working in the organization, not for the organization.

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  3. Perhaps a better word for 'politics' here would be 'manipulation'- which often leads to much heart burn and causes dissent amongst many people as against the few who are experts in practicing it.
    What the organization can do is to minimise/optimise the possibilities of manipulations. A right balance between processes, control and decentralization of authority would help. It is something that cannot be eliminated altogether but surely something to be kept within limits.

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  4. "They seek to create the impression that they were acting out of some other higher motives", I strongly agree to this. But politicking can augur indiscernible dysfunctional behavior, which will become evident as a culture infused in an organization on the long run.

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