To help us understand organizations, we might consider them as political systems. The political metaphor helps us understand power relationships in day-to-day organizational relationships. If we accept that power relations exist in organizations, then politics and politicking are an essential part of organizational life.
Politics is a means of recognizing and, ultimately, reconciling competing interests within the organization. Competing interests can be reconciled by any number of means. For example, resorting to "rule by the manager" might be seen as an example of totalitarian rule. On the other hand, politics may be a means of creating a noncoercive, or a democratic work environment.
As mentioned, organizations need mechanisms whereby they reconcile conflicting interests. Hence, organizations, like governments, tend to "rule" by some sort of "system". This "system" is employed to create and maintain "order" among the organization's members.
Systems of rule within organizations range from autocratic to democratic at the extremes. Between these extremes we find bureaucratic and technocratic systems. Whatever the system, each represents a political orientation with respect to how power is applied and distributed throughout theorganization. Each type of organizational "rule" simply draws on different principles of legitimacy.
According to Aristotle, politics stems from a diversity of interests. To fully understand the politics of the organization, it is necessary to explore the processes by which people engage in politics. Consistent with Aristotle's conceptualization, it is a given that, within the organization, all employees bring their own interests, wants, desires, and needs to the workplace.
Organizational decision-making and problem- solving, while seemingly a rational process, is also a political process. Organizational actors seek to satisfy not only organizational interests, but also their own wants and needs; driven by self-interest.
Regardless of the degree to which employees may be committed to the organization's objectives, there can be little doubt that, at least occasionally, personal interests will be incongruent with those of the organization. Organizational politics arises when people think differently and want to act differently.
The tension created by this diversity can resolved by political means. In an autocratic organization, resolution comes through the directive: "We'll do it my way!". The democratic organization seeks to resolve this diversity of interests by asking: "How shall we do it?" By whatever means an organization resolves this diversity, alternative approaches generally hinge on the power relations between the actors involved.
According to Farrell and Peterson(Farrell and Peterson,...