Organisational Behavior: Power and Politics

Introduction:

The present report reflects on a range of aspects concerning organisational behaviour in modern-day context. The first part of the study highlights impact of work groups and teams on organisational culture. During the later stages, the impact of power and politics on organisational workforce has been evaluated. In order to assess these factors and the associated impact on organisational culture, several past literatures have been discussed while proposition of various authors and scholars have been critically reviewed to clarify the problem statements. Finally, attempts have been made to link the literature with various real-life instances in order to determine if there is any gap between theory and practice.

1.0 Impact of work groups and teams on organisational culture:

Evaluating a range of past literature, work group formation and teamwork could directly impact on organisational development. In this context, the relationship between teamwork and organisational behaviour along with the merits and demerits of such culture could be evaluated to assess the possible organisational culture.

1.1 Team socialisation and development:

Team socialisation can be considered as pivotal in organisational context as a considerable number of scholars have emphasised that team socialisation could impact on employee relations and accordingly, the workforce performance. Despite knowing the fact, the factor can be incontrollable at times and Mondy et al. (2005) acknowledged that the emergence of new team members would likely to alter the team balance since the ‘fit in’ index would be critical in such context. In this context, successful organisations in modern era emphasise particularly on grooming on newer candidates to promptly address the team socialisation aspect. For instance, a new floor representative in Tesco is assisted by the fellow floor representatives for the first working month so that the new candidates could understand the team philosophy better.

Based on the team socialisation scenario, team development index can be influenced on the basis of which, organisational development is influenced in the long run (Antonioni, 2008). In reference to the classic stage models, any particular work group or team is likely to undergo several phases that can be independent of timeline. Considering Tuckman’s literature, a team would undergo stages like forming, storming, norming and performing during the process of development (Jones and White, 2005). However, Osterman (2005) argued that due to contingent requirements, business organisations nowadays are forced to emphasis on several functional or module-based approach that hampers the development process. The Punctuated Equilibrium Model (PEM) of group development promotes the fact that group development is not influenced by a linear progression of stages and that the process is likely to be influenced by external deadline.

The contradiction between the Tuckman’s model and the PEM framework reflects the actual scenarios in the modern day context. It is becoming increasingly difficult for modern day organisations to implement the Tuckman’s model and the PEM model is more relevant to the context. Organisations are prioritising on transformational leadership approaches so that dynamic teams can be developed and greater workforce productivity could be feasible. 

1.2 Teamwork and learning environment:

Among various impacts of teamwork, promoting a learning environment is a significant one. In reference to the proposition of Edelman et al. (2012), a learning organisation facilitates education for all stakeholders and supports a systematic transformation process. The concept is supposed to be only feasible if a standardised perception exists within the workforce. Therefore, achieving a teamwork culture is pivotal to facilitate a learning work culture. As per the assumptions of Bleich (2010), teamwork could promote shared responsibilities and knowledge for the continuous development of the workforce. As a consequence, greater workforce understanding could be feasible, giving rise to the formation of dynamic workgroups.

In order to establish the fact, the findings from the ‘Teamwork and learning new things’ survey conducted by European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) can be considered. The survey findings suggest that in majority cases, teamwork culture has helped workforces learning new things and the case is similar for the UK based organisations as well. Jensen and William (2006) acknowledged that a considerable number of organisations nowadays are trying to transform the workforces through a teamwork culture so that the establishment of a learning environment could be a possibility.

From the above discussion, it can be assumed that teamwork and learning environment are directly linked with each other. An effective teamwork culture could help establishing a learning work culture. However, Lawrence and Jay (2007) contradicted that the process might not be feasible for organisations prioritising short term business goals. Establishment of a leaning work culture is regarded as a long term prospect that requires time. Therefore, organisations expecting instant success might experience difficulties in establishing a learning work culture. On top of that, a participative leadership approach is needed to be prioritised during the transformation stage in order to complement the process and mould the human resources in teamwork culture.

1.3 Negative aspects of group work:

Despite all the positive aspects concerning teamwork activities, there could be some negative consequences associated with a teamwork culture. Kalleberg et al. (2010) argued that with improved team performances, the organisations’ expectations and business demands are likely to increase, resulting in greater workload. If the teams are not given sufficient scope for decision making with increasing demand, higher level of work pressure and stress could hamper team performance and affect employee relations (Edelman, 2010). The Finnish Quality of Work Life survey, conducted in the year 2008, revealed the fact that over 59% of the overall employees across all business sectors need to work under stringent deadlines while involving in teams.

Though teamwork culture is likely to bolster workforce productivity, stringent deadlines and working under tight schedules often impact on employees’ health and morale. Bamber and Castka (2006) even cited that organisations prioritising high intensity teamwork, experience poor employee retention scenario. Such has been the case in the UK’s IT sector where majority of the organisations prioritise a project based work culture. The country’s IT sector accounts a relatively poor employee retention scenario compared to other business sectors (Jensen-Champbell et al. 2003). Perhaps failing to maintain a proper work-life balance is a major reason behind such issue. Therefore, emphasising on optimal utilisation of the human resources is critical in promoting a teamwork culture and enhance organisational productivity.    

1.4 Teamwork and organisational commitment:

In reference to a range of past literature, prioritising the human resources might not be the solution to workforce productivity. Emphasising on the commitment of the human resources is needed to be prioritised so that greater workforce performance could be experienced. Organisation culture is supposed to be pivotal in this context. In the words of McCrae and John (2012), organisations prioritising on teamwork culture have a greater possibility of experiencing enhanced workforce commitment. On the other hand, organisation development is considered to be a persistent method for variations. Bennis (2003) came across a relationship between organisational culture and workforce commitment which is strongly influenced by a teamwork culture (refer to the figure below).

 

The above figure implicates the fact that greater workforce commitment can be experienced following continuous organisation development. In this context, organisational culture could play a significant role. However, the process would require nurturing of human resources through a teamwork culture since the collective output is likely to contribute more than individual outputs. On the other hand, promotion of shared cause and skills could complement a learning work environment that could provide a cutting edge to business organisations even in an adverse business scenario.

2.0 Impact of power and politics on organisational culture:

Power and politics can significantly impact on the workforce performance as far as the past literature is concerned. Some authors claim that politics and power is only meant for the management and the authority only utilising which, the human resources can be managed. However, Meyer and Brian (2007) argued that with specific legislative framework, management power and politics could influence the business sustainability index. The ongoing argument leads makes the situation even more complicated. However, assessing the impacts of power and politics individually could help in investigating the probable impact on organisational culture.

2.1 Organisational power and its impact:

Considering the words of Dobbin et al. (2003), power is the ability to influence a situation by means of either insisting or resisting. In modern day context, power in organisation is determined by the organisational hierarchy. For instance, personnel holding the managerial positions are likely to retain more power since the managers can hire, fire or reward employees (Barley and Gideon, 2002). In other words, personnel in higher organisational designation have the power that can be used for or against the employees. Although the approach might be seemed unethical, the standard corporate practice is based on such a philosophy and employees are likely to adapt to the scenario.

Power can be utilised in both positive and negative aspects, depending on the consent of the person in charge. For instance, managers could utilise power for encouraging subordinates to enhance team productivity. Bemmels and Resyef (2011) regarded such context as employee empowerment that allows employees to be more productive with taking participation in management decision making. Some managers even reward subordinates for standout performances. Several organisations in the modern era direct management to reward employees on the basis of KPIs (key performance indicators) (Searle and Skinner, 2011). For instance, Harrods, a leading departmental store in the UK reward employees with the achievement of KPIs. The brand even engages employees within different teams to take contingent decisions to resolve critical situations. Employees are likely to be more productive when management power is used is positive aspects and Boxall and Purcell (2003) acknowledged that positive power utilisation such as employee empowerment is compatible for greater employee retention as well.

On the contrary to positive power, negative power is likely to hamper workforce morale. In the words of Gilmore and Williams (2009), if organisational leaders fail to earn the respect of the employees can be accused of practicing negative power. Negative power practice is a preferable option for modern day organisations since the strategy is considered to be compatible for greater workforce productivity. However, Blake et al. (2004) questioned the efficacy of the process in the long run since the practice is likely to affect the employee motivation level. As a consequence, the employee retention scenario could be negatively in the long run. Another instance of the negative type of power can be biased management decision making process. For Harrods has been recently accused of gender discrimination policies. While there is no particular dress code for male candidates, the females are directed to wear makeup during working hours and a female employee refusing to comply with the act was even sacked (Jensen-Champbell et al. 2003). Such instances promote negative power utilisation and Dobbin et al. (2003) acknowledged that negative power utilisation would likely to result in high turnover rates.

2.2 Organisational politics and its impact:

Different authors and scholars have regarded organisational politics differently. In reference to the viewpoint of Machiavellian tradition of organisational politics, organisational politics can be regarded as emphasising self interest while using various non sanctioned means (Jones and White, 2005). On the other hand, alternate tradition of organisational politics regards politics as a necessary function that results from differences in personal interests (Jensen-Champbell et al. 2003). The major purpose of organisational politics is supposed to be overcoming of personal inadequacies while focusing on greater change management and substituting formal authority. However, in majority of the instances, politics is followed in business organisations for self betterment only rather than collective workforce benefits. Therefore, depending on the level of management practices political impact on business could be either positive or negative.

From the positive perspective, employees managing to learn the complexities of organisational politics are generally the dynamic ones. Such employees would likely to adapt to different complex organisational scenarios. However, Dobbin et al. (2003) suggested that employees engaging in politics would be benefitted for a short term and the success or goodwill within the workforce might not last forever. Having said that, employees with effective political knowledge are found to be more productive compared to the peers. Therefore, Kalleberg et al. (2010) mentioned that modern day organisations can emphasis on an effective political culture within the work environment in order to facilitate a dynamic workforce. Majority of the manufacturing firms in the UK encourages employees to take participation in the workers’ union that prioritises the standards set by International Labour Organisation (ILO). Thus, employees get exposed to real time industry practices and thrive to deliver performances accordingly.

Form the negative perspective, organisational conflicts could lead to workforce conflicts. Since the organisational politics is more common in manufacturing industry, the number of conflicts and disciplinary are more compared to any other industries. Blake et al. (2004) discussed that politics encourages employees to opt for favouritism following unethical means and the process often leads to interpersonal conflicts. Since conflicts creates barrier for workforce productivity, it can be assumed that increasing number of conflicts could negatively influence organisational productivity with organisational politics being a major reason behind the fact. Dobbin et al. (2003) even cited that intense politics within the work places could affect employee morale and satisfaction index, resulting in higher turnover ratio.

2.3 Managing power and politics within organisation:

In order to manage power and politics within organisations, specific leadership strategies are needed to be focused. In this context, the seven principles proposed by Niccolo Machiavelli could be focused. Firstly, the employees are needed to be made aware of individual benefits so that better cooperation could be expected. Kalleberg et al. (2010) attributed that organisational change is needed to be considered as a political issue and logical explanation could be given to the workforce for avoiding conflicts. An early warning can be given to the workforce of possible difficulties of future scenarios so that employees could act accordingly and thrive for the desired scenario. Exhibition of predictable behaviour could be a viable option to manage work groups effectively (Jones and White, 2005). The managers need to give credits to the deserving employees while taking the blame for any possible pitfall. The approach helps in maintaining a certain degree of transparency between the supervisors and the employees. Anticipating the needs before going public could minimise the number of conflicts within the workplace while keeping the ego sealed would enhance the employee relations (Jensen-Champbell et al. 2003). Finally, a goal based approach can be prioritised by the leaders for facilitating a better project management initiative.       

 

Conclusion:

The findings from the study can be segregated into two parts. However, both teamwork culture, organisational power and politics are considered to be influential in organisational culture. Employees, while involved in work groups or teams, are likely to be more productive, giving rise to overall organisational productivity. Power within an organisation can be utilised both positively and negatively. While positive utilisation of authority could improve workforce productivity, negative power could influence high employee turnover. Finally, organisational leaders are needed to be alert in countering organisational politics. In this context, anticipating the necessities before going public could be crucial in avoiding workforce conflicts.

 

References:

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