The purpose of this activity is to look at the issues of power, control and politics in an organization known to me. This is geared towards gaining a greater understanding of issues and ways in which power and influence can be accessed.
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Issues of Power, Control and Politics in your organization
Let’s assess the implementation of a new computer system in the logistics company where I work and the issues of power, control and politics that arose.
The latest conception of power is that it can be defined in bases, including the expert base, which purports that change agents have superior knowledge to which the less expert defer. In our company, the IT Manager was advantaged because he could blind the rest of us with IT jargon – the expert power base. Those who associated with him automatically became more powerful – “power by association”, one of the six stages of power – the others include powerlessness, power by achievement, by reflection, by purpose, and by wisdom. (Hagberg, 2002)
Weiss (1996) suggested power is differentially located throughout organizations. Power becomes good, bad, clean or dirty by use – through words and deeds. Power is present within every organization, and what is not gained by you will be gained by another – probably an opponent. Therefore, if you care that power be used mercifully, you should gain the maximum amount possible and use it responsibly. This can be done only through study and putting into action of what you learn. (Griffin, 1991)
Hatch (1997) states that control theories begin with the assumption that individuals have different reasons for participating in organizations and organizations must ensure divergent interests do not clash with company policies and goals. Thus managers MUST have control. Crisis management is integral to business management and the structure that provides the basis for this is “command and control” (O’Reilly, 2005). A loss of control can result in big implications for the company, as happened at my company when the Project Manager lost control of the situation when the system was upgraded – a lot was lost in the theft of software and computer components.
The term politics is defined as social relations involving governance or power (Princeton, 2005).
Politics are an inherent part of the corporate culture. In a competitive environment, there will always be people who try to advance their careers by using subversive tactics to manipulate or influence others.’Yes-men,’ for example, who are more concerned with self-promotion than fulfilling company goals, can create much conflict” (USA Today, 1994). Weiss (1996) comments that until recently the idea of organizational politics has had a bad reputation, but that it happens all the time – it is the need and ability to have and use power – a natural phenomenon. Within the logistics company, the staff divided into groups for and against the new IT system – people and groups in and around organizations have different interests (Harrison and Shirom, 2000). The sociologist Erving Goffman (1958) said that public performance of political action is typically undertaken by “following the ritual and legitimating script of organizational respectability.” Policy makers within organizations should strive to understand the impact upon internal politics that policies will have. (Prakash, 2000)
Goffman, E (1958) Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Hammondsworth: Penguin
Griffin, G (1991) Machiavelli on Management: Playing and Winning the Corporate Power Game Praeger Publishers
Hagberg, J (2002) Real Power Resources Stages of Personal Power and The Silent Witness National Initiative retrieved 27 July 2005 from the website http://janethagberg.com/applying_the_powermodel.htm
Harrison, M and Shirom, A (2000) Organisational Diagnosis and Assessment: Bridging Theory and Practice Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage
Hatch, M.J (1997) Organization Theory: Modern Symbolic and Post Modern Perspectives: Oxford: Oxford University Press
O’Reilly, Steve (2005) The Importance of Command and Control To Successful Business Continuity Management retrieved 27 July 2005 from the website http://www.insight.co.uk/downloads/whitepapers/Command%20and%20Control.pdf
Prakash, A Greening the Firm: The Politics of Corporate Environmentalism (2000) Cambridge University Press
Princeton (2005), retrieved 27 July 2005 from the website http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=politics
USA Today, 1994 Company Politics are Counter Productive Volume 123, November 1994
Weiss, JW (1996) Organisational Behaviour and Change: Managing Diversity, Cross Cultural Dynamics and Ethics St Paul; West Publishing.