People response to organizational Politics

The practice of performance evaluation is far from a perfect science. The more that organizations use subjective criteria in the appraisal, emphasize a single outcome measure, or allow significant time to pass between the time of an action and its appraisal, the greater the likelihood that an employee can get away with politicking. Subjective performance criteria create ambiguity can get away with politicking. The use of a single outcome measure encourages individuals to do whatever is necessary to look good for that measure, but often at the expenses of performing well on other important parts of the job that are not being appraised. The amount of time that elapses between an action and its appraisal is also a relevant factor. The longer the time, the more unlikely the employee will be held accountable for his or her political behaviors.

The more that an organization’s culture emphasizes the zero-sum or win-lose approach to reward allocations there more employees will be motivated to engage on politicking. The zero-sum approach treats the reward pie as fixed so that any gain one person or group achieves has to come at the expenses of another person or group. If I win, you must lose! If $15,000 in annual raises is to be distributed among five employees, then any employee who gets more than $3,000 takes money away from one or more of the others. Such a practice encourage making others look bad and increasing the visibility of what you do.

In the past 25 years, there has been a general move in North America and among most developed nations towards making organizations less autocratic. Managers in these organizations are being asked to behave more democratically. They are told they should allow employees to advise them on decisions and that they should rely to greater extent on group input into the decision process. Such moves toward democracy, however, are not necessarily embraced by all individual managers. Many managers sought their positions in order to have legitimate power so as to be able to make unilateral decisions. They fought hard and often paid high personal costs to achieve their influential positions. Sharing their power with others runs directly against their desires. The result is that managers, especially those who begun their careers in the 1960s and 1970s may use the required committees, conferences and group meetings in a superficial way, as arenas for maneuvering and manipulating.

Finally, when employees see the people on top engaging in political behavior, especially when they do so successfully and are rewarded for it, climate is created that supports politicking. Politicking by top management, in a sense, gives permission to those lower in the organization to play politics by implying that such behavior is acceptable.

The relationship between organizational politics and individual outcomes: There is, for instance, very strong evidence that perceptions of organizational politics are negatively related to job satisfaction. The perception of politics also tends to increase job anxiety and stress. This seems to be due to the perception that, by not engaging in politics a person may be losing ground to others who are active politickers or conversely because of the additional pressures individuals feel because of having entered into and competing in the political arena. Not surprisingly when politicking becomes too much to handle, it can lead to employees quitting. Finally, there is preliminary evidence suggesting that politics leads to self-reported declines in employee performance. This may occur because employees perceive political environments to be unfair which de-motivates them.

In addition to these conclusions several interesting qualifiers have been noted. First, the politics performance relationship appears to be moderated by an Individual’s understanding of the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of organizational politics. An individual who has a clear understanding of who is responsible for making decisions and why they were selected to be the decision makers would have a better understanding of how why things happen the way they do than someone who does not understand the decision making process in the organization. When both politics and understanding are high, performance is likely to interest because the individuals will see political action as an opportunity. This is consistent with what you might expect among individuals with well-honed political skills. But when understanding is low, individuals are more likely to see politics as threat, which would a negative effect on job performance. —

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