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Power and Politics

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Politics and Power Paper

It is not about "what you do", "it is about who you are and who you know". As employees, we have all heard sayings like this before when it comes to the business world. The "power and politic" mindset is a direct result of the type of tug of war experienced for millions of years; from prehistoric times through modern day. Ever since Ugha smashed Mugha in the head with a club back in prehistoric times, politics have been around in the workplace. Politics are a subliminal fight for survival and it actually happens in personal lives as much as it does in our work lives. Politics can go hand in hand with power, just as night follows the day. Many of the political situations that occur within a corporation are a result of growth and change. However, part of the task of becoming a viable asset to a corporation is to look beyond the surface and find out where the company is heading as a result of these changes. In this way, employees can position themselves to be a positive part of the growth and change.

Power and politics go hand in hand in the business world today. The likelihood of gaining power often depends on the ability to read and understand politics. Once power is gained, leaders tend to utilize politics to reach long term goals and visions. Pending on the style of leadership, personal agendas may come into play. While personal agendas are not always a bad thing, they are generally set forth with limited perspective and can potentially result in catastrophe. Because personal agendas restrict the flow of communication and constructive criticism, personal agendas are a major contributor to the negative aspects of power. However, there is far more to be gained than lost with regard to power. Power provides a solid structure and a clear expectation. Since people strive to please, measurable guidelines offer a foundation for success. When power is used effectively, appropriate politics can be set into place to obtain a desired outcome.

Politics are meant to go unnoticed and usually lie beneath the surface. Recognizing politics is half the battle in learning to handle and deal with them. Once politics are recognized there is an opportunity to benefit personally and collectively. Politics can promote the "I'll scratch you're back if you scratch mine", type of behavior. This allows for people to share best practices and feel that favors are mutually reciprocated. This type of politics also aids with cross functional communication and overall efficiency. Knowing who is resourceful for various needs will benefit personal success as well as overall company production. Unfortunately, politics has the potential to bring negativity and corruption along with it. Often time's political motives are based on personal feelings or emotions. The result of making business decisions on the premise of feeling rather than fact can hold heavy consequences. When politics are played on an emotional level the drive to perform is based on likeability instead of productivity. This decreases trust and morale while lowering overall organizational production.

Regardless of the topic of conversation, all methods and ideas in life hold positive and negative attributes. As we can see both politics and power have the potential to assist or hinder a company. Power is important to create a structured environment with clear expectations. Similarly, politics are valuable in motivating organizations and offering a useful system of identifying and working toward the big picture. However, a close eye must be kept on both power and politics to manage and maintain positive intent and future outcome.

The Holocaust is an excellent example of what can happen when power and politics come together without regard for future outcomes. In 1961, a year after Adolf Hitler's trial in Jerusalem, Stanley Milgram a psychologist at Yale University devised an experiment. This goal of the experiment was to answer the questions "could it be that Eichmann (Hitler) and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?" (

This experiment was designed to assess the amount of pain a person was willing to impose on another because they were ordered to do so.

The experiment was presented as a "study of memory" and involved three people for each test. The experimental scientist also known as the person in charge, the learner who was an actor knowing about the experimentation and the participant, a solicited person who was paid to inflict pain in an effort to aid in memory retention. Every time the learner was unable to remember what had been taught by the participant, the participant had to shock the learner. The participants were all men with ages ranging from 20 to 50 and came from different educational backgrounds. The voltage did not exceed 450 volts.

The participant was lead to believe the learner was being shocked, in reality they were not being shocked. The learner and participant were placed in two separate rooms; the learner would then set up a tape recorder. The recorder had previously taped screams corresponding to the same level of voltage as the participant would inflict on the learner. Upon being shocked the learner would play the pre-recorded screams. Many of the participants would pause at 135 volts to questions the reasoning behind the experiment and who would ultimately be held responsible for any physical damages caused to the learner. The scientist would assure the participant that the scientist would take responsibility. In 27 of the 40 experiments, the participant administered all 450 volts allowed. If the participant requested to stop before the 450 volt mark had been achieved, the scientist would request for them to continue as it was required for experimental research. None of the participants quit before hitting the 300 volt mark (

This experiment explored how people would respond when being advised when an authority figure requested them to violate their morals. An article on the website The Milgram Experiment provides alarming details of what occurred stating:

At 150 volts, the actor yelled, 'Experimenter, get me out of here! I won't be in this experiment any longer! I refuse to go on!' 180 volts receives 'I can't stand the pain!' By 270 volts, each shock is met with a scream...345 volts brought the most terrifying development of all, silence (

This is a frightening example of the fundamentally obedient nature of humans.



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