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Power and Politics

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Power and Politics


Power is important within organizations because power is the way in which management influences individuals to make things happen. When power and influence combine most of the time, "politics" becomes involved in some manner which may pose some problems. Organizational politics is best described as management influenced by self-interest through the use of means not necessarily authorized by the organization. Organizational politics have been viewed as an organizations enhancement tool to survive and fulfill goals. Power and Politics, though closely related, share similarities and differences but ultimately work together for the success of an organization. With this discussion of power and politics, Wal-Mart will be the prime example of how power and politics are differential in a globally known organization.


There are two types of power that influence both individual and organizational behaviors. The first one, known as Position Power is widely used by the managers as a direct result of his or her position in the organization. There are six basis under position power in which the management uses to effectively motivate their employees. Reward power is probably the most successful in controlling employees. There are several types of rewards a manager can use to motivate success within individuals such as monetary, promotions, and compliments. The opposite, Coercive power can be seen as a punishment power.

The management can use this power to demote, transfer, fire or deny raises to their employees. The third power base of Position is legitimate power. This power stems from the level of hierarchy in which the subordinates report directly to the authority over them for decisions. Process Power controls the input and output of organizations to make sure that the processes are carried out efficiently and effectively within. Information power is the control of information or access to information within an organization. Information can be controlled to a "need to know" basis and/or just limited to the upper management. This type of power compliments the legitimate power. Finally, there is Representative power in which an organization uses an individual to be there spokesperson both within the organization and when dealing with people outside of the organization.

The second source of power that influences individuals and organizations behaviors is known as Personal Power. This power focuses more on the individual's independent nature within the position that he or she has been placed. There are three sources under this power that are apparent in most organizations that are well managed. The first is expert power in which control is based on the knowledge or experience that the individual possesses in the position that he or she holds. Rational persuasion is the power to control behavior by being able to show the desirable out comes through reasonable and acceptable means within an organization. With the diverse personalities within an organization, to have management that is levelheaded and rational is essential. The final basis of control within personal power is referent power. This is controlling an individual's behavior within an organization by allowing him or her to identify with the source of power that is over him or her.


Power is the act of manipulating a person to do something. Individuals tend to follow other individuals in higher positions hoping to manipulate his or her way into gaining power within the organization. Politics, however, involves using a particular position of power to gain something for personal reasons or for the good of the company. Politics are used to gain something physical by way of power. The power is used as the pawn in the entire game. Without power, politics would not be politics because there would be no pull, so power is the backbone of the political process. Politics on the other hand, can be seen in two different lights. The first one is:

"Organizational politics may be formally defined as the management of influence to obtain ends not sanctioned by the organization or to obtain sanctioned ends through non-sanctioned influence means. Managers are often considered political when they seek their own goals or use means that are not currently authorized by the organization or that push legal limits" (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn-Wiley, p.406).

This would be when a manager or higher up use a means that is not governed by the organization to obtain the desired results. The second would be "the art of creative compromise among competing interests" (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn-Wiley, p. 408). When a person's political use of power is up for speculation, there are three common ways that managers may use to protect themselves in self-serving situations. The first would be to avoidance, the second would be to redirect the responsibility to another and the third would be to defend his or her turf.

Power and Politics in an organization may seem the same; however, there are two different ways of handling management. Power is defined as, "the ability to get someone to do something you want done or the ability to make things happen the way you want them to" (Schermerhorn, Hunt & Osborn-Wiley, 2005, p. 357). Managers can use rewards such as money or promotions. They can even use punishment to exert his or her power and get the desired results. However, there is Legitimate Power that is behavior in which the "boss" has the right to command. Mill's "harm principle," which has been debated, states: "The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others" (SIMMONDS, N.E. 1998). While this is a little extreme, management can use personal power involving personal characteristics such as; likeability, political savvy, and expertise to influence individuals



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