Not all groups or organizations are equally political.
In some organizations, for instance, politicking is overt and rampant, while in others, politics plays a small role in influencing outcomes.
Why is there this variation?
Recent research and observation have identified a number of factors that appear to encourage political behavior.
Some are individual characteristics, derived from the unique qualities of the people the organization employs; others are a result of the organization’s culture or internal environment.
Researchers have identified certain personality traits, needs, and other factors that are likely to be related to political behavior.
- Employees who are high self-monitor, possess an internal locus of control, and have a high need for power are more likely to engage in political behavior.
- The high self-monitor is more sensitive to social cues and is more likely to be skilled in political behavior than the low self-monitor.
- Individuals with an internal locus of control are more prone to take a proactive stance and attempt to manipulate situations in their favor.
- The Machiavellian personality is comfortable using politics as a means to further his/her self-interest.
An individual’s investment in the organization perceived alternatives and expectations of success will influence the tendency to pursue illegitimate means of political action.
- The more that a person has invested and the more a person has to lose, the less likely he/she is to use illegitimate means.
- The more alternative job opportunities an individual has, a prominent reputation, or influential contacts outside the organization, the more likely he/she will risk illegitimate political actions.
- A low expectation of success in using illegitimate means diminishes the probability of its use.
Political activity is probably more a function of the organization’s characteristics than of individual difference variables.
When an organization’s resources are declining, when the existing pattern of resources is changing, and when there is an opportunity for promotions, politics is more likely to surface.
- Cultures characterized by low trust, role ambiguity, unclear performance evaluation systems, zero-sum reward allocation practices, democratic decisionmaking, high pressures for performance, and self-serving senior managers will create breeding grounds for politicking.
- When organizations downsize to improve efficiency, people may engage in political actions to safeguard what they have.
- Promotion decisions have consistently been found to be one of the most political in organizations.
- The less trust there is within the organization, the higher the level of political behavior and the more likely it will be illegitimate.
- Role ambiguity means that the prescribed behaviors of the employee are not clear.
- There are fewer limits to the scope and functions of the employee’s political actions.
- The greater the role ambiguity, the more one can engage in political activity with little chance of it being visible.
- Subjective criteria in the appraisal process;
- Subjective performance criteria create ambiguity.
- Single outcome measures encourage doing whatever is necessary to “look good.”
- The more time that elapses between an action and its appraisal, the more unlikely that the employee will be held accountable for his/her political behaviors.
- The zero-sum approach treats the reward “pie” as fixed so that any gain one person or group achieve has to come at the expense of another person or group. If I win, you must lose!
- This encourages making others look bad and increasing the visibility of what’ you do.
- Making organizations less autocratic by asking managers to behave more democratically is not necessarily embraced by all individual managers.
- Sharing their power with others runs directly against some managers’ desires.
- The result is that managers, especially those who began their careers in the 1950s and 1960s* may use the required committees, conferences, and group meetings in a superficial.
- The more pressure that employees feel to perform well, the more likely they are to engage in politicking.
- If a person perceives that his or her entire career is riding on the next “whatever,” there is motivation to do whatever is necessary to make sure the outcome is favorable.
- When employees see top management successfully engaging in political behavior, a climate is created that supports politicking.