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DEF: Organizational politics refers to a variety of activities connected to the tactics used to influence or improve personal or organizational (org) interests. Political behavior allows differences to be shared & methods to be used in strategies that go beyond the rules / norms of the company.
Studies have shown that leaders with political skills tend to out-perform their politically naive counterparts.
🌵 The WEEDS – Individual, Informal
This quadrant is governed by personal influence & informal networks, a dynamic** that grows naturally, without maintenance, & can be a positive benefit to the org.
**dynamics : forces which produce power or movement
Alternatively, the Weeds may form into a dense mat through which nothing else grows. Informal networks can oppose legitimate power & the long-term interests of the co. Such leaders become a source of resistance to change, which influences their colleagues & peers
to do the same. This can prevent putting the org. on a sounder long-term financial footing.
EXP: At one not-for-profit org., their Secretary General was seriously under-performing & sometimes even being unethical. This causing staff to worry they’d lose support of key donors & government officials.
So, an informal group regularly met to cover up his abuses. However, since the problem was too big, within a year the same group helped ease him out, to protect the org’s reputation.
To deal with the Weeds, a leader needs to get involved enough in day-to-day office milieu to understand the informal networks at play. They must identify the key players & any gaps in communication, & possibly ally themselves with them when reasonable.
If the power-group is doing more harm than good, the leader can try to isolate them by developing a counter-narrative**, or by filling in the information gaps & strengthen connections with other networks. (More….)
** counter-narrative is an argument that disputes a commonly held belief or truth, & can give a voice to workers in an org. who otherwise would not have one.
Options for progress:
a. Sometimes a manager or leader needs to exert a lot of pressure on a team to get something done, by using their ‘Positional Power‘.
b. In other cases it may be necessary for employees to form a coalition that works behind the scenes to develop a new procedure or vision.
🪨 The ROCKS – Individual, Formal
This type of Power rests on individual interactions & the use of formal (‘hard’) authority. It can also include political capital which comes from membership in -or- strong ties to a high-status group (finance committee, a special task force, senior management….)
Supportive ‘Rocks’ can make awesome sponsors for organizational growth, & therefore represent a stabilizing force that keeps a business on a strong foundation in times of crisis.
However, the sharp edges of ‘hard power’ can also wreck a plan – when used to satisfy self-interest over the firm’s longer-term value.
EXP: A mid-sized advertising agency was trying to implementing a new growth strategy. The chairman used abusive power to stop the changes.
— He constantly questioned decisions agreed to by the management team
— changed his mind from one meeting to the next
— stoped agreeing to allocate resources for new structures, &
— removed people from the special task forces without notification.
The best bet is to redirect the energy of a dysfunctional leader, inviting the Negative Rocks to participate in the change effort.Reasoned argument & especially appealing to their interests can work – since someone is involved in the change-effort, they’re more likely to buy into it, rather than resist.
EXP: In the case of the ad agency mentioned above, senior executives used the threat of “leaving a legacy” to get the chairman to see how he was undermining the company’s long-term interests as well as his own.
NEXT : 4 Types of BIZ Politics (#2)