Organisational behaviour: Power, conflict and organisational politics

Category: Conflict
Last Updated: 07 May 2020
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It is important for the management of an organisation to realise that organisations are social structures where human beings work. By accepting and understanding this fact we should also be able to appreciate the fact that the various activities that happen at home and other institutions that are not business oriented are prone to happen in the organisation as well. Such activities include gossiping, need for power, trying to get recognition from others, wanting to win trust of other people among others.

These major social issues that arise in the organisation need to be looked at well because they have various levels of effects to the organisation where individuals are working. Therefore this research paper focus on some of the three major issues of power, conflict and organisational politics and how they can influence the performance of an organisation for the benefit of the management of an organisation. Power, conflict and organisational politics

A manager in any organisation needs to understand well, the various issues that relate to how human beings behave in any organisation so as to improve on the way that he will handle people in the organisation in order to achieve a high level of effectiveness and efficiency in leadership. Such issues are based on power, conflict of interests and politics within an organisation that tend to influence how the activities of an organisation will be carried out.

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Being aware of the existence of all these issues within an organisation will enable the manager to adjust to the different situations as they come and designing better ways of handling such issues if they come with negative effects Knights and Willmott (2007). According to Knights and Willmott (2007) power is the potential that a person has to influence others to behave in a certain way which is determined with the person’s values, beliefs and attitudes among other attributes that can be used to describe the personality of a person.

Power that a person will possess is acquired from different sources which are either within or outside the organisation. As a manager you need to understand that you can be able to get power from the position that you hold in the organisation or in the society as a whole that gives you legitimate power to direct the ones that are under your control to work in the ways that you direct them.

As discussed by (Horton 2003, p121-126) in his article on strategy, practice and the dynamics of power, another way in which a manager can acquire power could be from the kind of information that he holds that concerns the business affairs of the organisation. If he is in control of information that is considered to be most critical to the organization then he acquires power over the others in the organisation as he can use this information to influence others in anyway that he could wish to. Also a person can gain power through his qualifications and experience in a certain field of work which others could not be having.

By possessing such kind of expertise in the organisation people will be able to have trust and confidence that the expertise that the person has is enough to let the person lead in a given field in which he is best at. In addition to the three sources of power mentioned above, a person can also get power to lead if he has a strong personality that is liked by many whereby naturally people love and respect his courageousness, the way the person speaks and interacts with them and the physical appearance is attractive.

Such are inborn traits that a person is born with that cannot be learnt from anywhere that enables a person be able to have influence on the people who consider him or her as a role model. To conclude on the sources of power if a person is in a position that he can be able to reward or punish others for their actions, it can be said that that person has power to lead others in a certain way that he wishes to lead them. Such a control that a person has to either give rewards for good work done or punish for what has not been accomplished is referred to as coercive power Martin (2005).

As summarised in Vigoda-Gadot and Drory (2006) a good manager needs to understand and be aware of all these sources of power and learn to use them in a way that can lead the organisation to achieve its goals and objectives. If the sources of power are misused by the leaders in the various levels in the organisation this will mean that the organisation will be chasing away good employees who can make a positive contribution for the organisation in achieving its objectives.

It is a good power base that a person builds that will help him or her to influence others in a certain direction. Such a power base is built by acquiring power by balancing on the power that comes from all the power sources and networking within and outside the organisation then using it for the common good of the people that need your help and support. As can be seen from the above analysis of the sources of power, the manager should understand that all the individuals that are working for an organisation possess some form of power at one time or another.

The best thing that can be done to avoid conflict is to allow all the people in the organisation to use their power well and only to a given level that should be determined by the management by coordinating the activities. This can be done when individuals are assigned to carry out different tasks and involving them in the decision making process of the organisation Martin (2005).

In an organisation another human behaviour issue that attracts the attention of the management is the politics that are being carried around in the organisation that can be termed as organisational politics. Politics just like power influences the behaviour of individuals in an organisation either in a positive or negative direction. Politics in an organisation in most cases result from the power that individuals have acquired to influence individuals to follow a common interest.

Organisational politics enables an individual to acquire more power from his power base that will protect and guard well the power that an individual has. Such politics are involved the activities of an organisation ranging from production of goods and services, selling and distribution, marketing, training and development of employees, recruitment and selection of individuals to the organisations Cropanzona and Kacmar (1995).

When one talks about positive politics that is referring to the influence that people in the organisation will get that will enable them to make rational decisions on various matters in an organisation, to give others some form of inspiration to carry out their duties well and to consult others on matters that one cannot handle alone well enough all aimed at achieving the a common interest of the organisation Cropanzona and Kacmar (1995).

As pointed out in Cropanzona and Kacmar (1995), Organisational politics that is negative will lead individuals to form coalitions that will create obstacles and discourage others from carrying out their tasks, to exert unnecessary pressure on others in the organisation among other ways of creating hindering performance of duties. What a manager needs to know about politics in the organisation is that there are many ways of handling the politics in the organisation depending on the level of the organisational hierarchy such politics exists.

Politics in any organisation is bound to exist as the ways in which organisations are structured and made up tend to be unchangeable as they occur that way by nature. An organisation is made up of people who come from different backgrounds with different interests, values, beliefs, lifestyles and religious affiliations among others. Such differences will make individuals within an organisation to group themselves to various groups either by being allocated to such groups or having a common interest with the group members.

The fact that the people in an organisation will be divided into different groups that in itself will be a basis for the organisational politics to begin as one group will tend to support or oppose the different ways in which the organisational activities are being carried out and will influence the group members to act to what they think will be best for a particular situation Salman (2001). The resources that are within the reach of the organisation and those that are owned by other organisations can also contribute to the politics in an organisation.

Such kinds of resources include raw materials, equipment, human resources and above all power. As in most cases the resources that are available to the organisation are scarce, individuals will use different ways to be able to acquire the resources that they need in their departments. Politics is one of the ways that individuals use to acquire and safeguard the resources that they have acquired and will influence the level of performance of the organisational activities Cropanzona and Kacmar (1995).

In addition to that, politics in an organisation takes place because most of the activities of the organisations ranging from developing of goals and objectives to carrying them out involves some form of bargaining and negotiations to come up with what is able to represent the best interests of all the members of the organisation who have formed it and are working for it.

This is a good ground for politics as a way to attract a certain group of people to a certain side of the organisation that will either be opposing or supporting the activities of the organisation depending on the different interests that individuals have on the organisation Porter, Angle and Allen (2003). According to Knights and Willmott (2007) a person can be able to gain some of political power within and outside the organisation by establishing connections to various persons both outside and in the organisation that will enable him or her to create some form of political association or group in the organisation.

Such groups if they are combined together they can be able to widen the scope of power for creating more political arenas in the organisation. As discussed in Kakabadse (1982) in his article on politics inn organisations some level of politics is necessary for the organisation to maintain a clear focus on its goals and objectives as it gets the management alert on various issues that concern its performance of day to day activities, it is only the excess politics that is destructive.

Politics within an organisation will bring about positive and negative effects that influence the activities of an organisation. If well managed the politics in an organisation enables the management system in place to improve on the performance levels, improve on the quality of decisions that promote for good leadership and adoption of change strategies and good decision implementation. This will only happen when the organisation gives keen focus of the source of the politics and what is being targeted by the leaders of the various groups.

The negative side of the politics in the organisation is that if it is allowed to go to the extremes there is likely to be formed groups within the organisation that will rule over others by hindering them from performing the organisational activities. These groups within the organisation will then take most of the organisational time planning destructive activities that will discriminate other people who are not members of their groups.

The decision making process is likely to be altered by people not wanting to consider the opinions of others as they could only take certain decisions for their own selfish interests Kakabadse (1982). As a third behavioural aspect in the organisation as discussed in (Adomi and Ozioma Anie, 2006) in the article on conflict management, organisational conflicts come as a result of the disagreements on the goals, performance results and organisational goals and objectives that result between the individuals within an organisation.

Because the individuals that work in any given organisation are different from each other in values, interests and beliefs among others the conflicts always occur in an organisation. The conflicts are characterised by behaviours like people tending to be opposing others in the activities that they are carrying out, some people being prevented from accessing certain resources in the organisation and wastage of company resources which will make them insufficient for production purposes. There are different ways in which conflicts will exist in an organisation.

The first and foremost is when the persons working for the organisation are involved in conflicts between themselves which then leads to the disagreements between individuals that form a particular group. Then there are conflicts that will exist between various groups that exist within a particular concern various issues that are will be discussed below. An organisation as a business entity will get itself on the wrong side with its competitors in the market place as they both struggle to survive in business by attracting and retaining a high number of customers that will enable it to make good returns in terms of profit Morgan (2006).

Considering all the types of conflicts that have been discussed above they all seem to be caused by almost similar circumstances in that it is only the level at which the conflicts occurs that differs. Conflicts are likely to result more often in an organisation if the communication systems available are not well designed to allow for the free flow of information which will make some people both within and outside not to have clear information.

The uniqueness of personalities of different individuals also contribute to the conflicts arising in an organisation as individuals try to adopt and cope with the behaviours of others as they carry on with their day to day activities Morgan (2006). In addition to that, the resources that are made available for use in an organisation can lead to the rise of conflicts if people and organisations are scrambling and struggling to acquire as much as they would wish to have for themselves and their departments.

One of the major resources that has been said to cause more conflict is the power that is available to individuals in the organisations. Once individuals gets the power that they desire to have they can use it to influence others in the wrong direction or in the positive way which will cause a pull and push situations in trying to make all the people to work for the common good of the organisation Porter, Angle and Allen (2003).

Conflicts can also arise in situations whereby some departments are lagging behind in their performance by not meeting the set standards. When this happens disagreements are bound to happen especially if the activities of the lazy department greatly affect the profitability of the company and all the organisational members are made to suffer for the mistakes made by others.

If the organisation’s management is structured in such a way that does not encourage individuals to participate in the decisions that affect their welfare, they will feel that they are being oppressed and the resulting effect is the employees trying to express their opinions by use of aggressive or persuading means which creates a form of conflict between the employees and the organisation’s management Porter, Angle and Allen (2003).

When the conflicts occur in the organisation it is for the best interest of the organisation that they are solved as the way in which the organisation handles the conflict situations is the one that determines its success in the future as it carries on its business activities. The organisations or individuals depending on the kind of conflicts that they are involved in will handle the conflicts using a variety of techniques like by avoiding the conflict situations in future to ensure that they do not occur.

In some occasion if the conflict resulted from a differing of interests in trying to carry out a certain activity, the individuals involved can decide to agree on what they feel will represent the common interest of all. Sometimes compromising the conflicting situations can work out as a way to avoid more conflicts as in some case one can decide to go ahead with his or her goals and assuming those of others as if they do not make any great impact to you all this two can be good strategies to handle conflicts Porter, Angle and Allen (2003).

Post modernist view As the issues of politics, power and conflict in any organization must take place in any social structure where human beings are involved like an organization that is in business, a leader should be able to understand such issues well as they help in improving the management process. These issues act like some form of natural controls that an organization has that guides the organization to a certain direction depending on the magnitude with which they occur in the organization.

They make the work place such a reality situation and an enjoyable place to work in and spend some enjoyable working time in. Therefore handling the situations well will be a necessary requirement to be able to move to the right direction. It is necessary for a manager to be able to acquire the political, conflict management skills and be able to acquire as much power as possible from all the sources and use it to influence the decisions of the organization in a positive way that can help to achieve the aspirations of the organization.

Such skills have become very critical for any modern leader to be able to work with people in an organization well and be able to utilize their potentials by making them work for their own common good and for that of the organization. Considering all the other factors in an organization a good leader should also be able to understand that the way power is gained at one time or another in an organization it can also be lost at some time because several changes take place that affect the leadership of the organization.

In such cases a manager needs to maintain a good reputation whether in position or not as way of accepting the changes that occur to the organization. There is need also to understand that politics, power and conflicts in an organization take some considerable level of the organization’s and people’s time, requires effort to build among other commitments. For that matter the organization needs to have a clear focus for its goals and objectives that will enable it to make adjustments to the right direction so that such efforts and time do not get wasted.

Strategic planning plans should be able then to make plans that take to consideration to the various influences that are within the organization as this will be the only way that the organization can make real plans that the organization can accomplish in its operations of day to day activities. Just to conclude on the behavioural aspects of individuals in an organization, the differences in the interests, opinions, attitudes and skills among others of the individuals of an organization should be used to build on the strengths of the business organization and to exploit the upcoming opportunities in the market.

This can be done by making of new products and developing alternative strategies to adapt to the changes that are likely to take place in the business market. Conclusion In conclusion to the above analysis, there is need for the organization to appoint the right people to the right positions within the organization that will help it to achieve its goals and objectives.

This they can only do if the leaders that the organization will select for different positions can be able to influence other people in the organization to work for the best interest of the organization by using in the right way the power that they have acquired, being well informed about the politics that exists in the organization and can be able to handle the conflicts that occur in the organization either from outside sources or from sources within the organization.

A successful leader needs to have a well established power base to be able to influence the people he is leading to produce and work for his own benefit and for the benefit of the organization. For that reason a good leader should understand himself or herself well before identifying the people he can associate with that can rhyme and complement him or her well. That’s the reason as to why such an analysis will help a manager to improve on his work of carrying out management functions as part of the strategic plans for the organization. Word count 3467 References Adomi E & Ozioma Anie S.

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Knights D. & Willmott H. (2007). Introducing organizational behaviour and management. Cengage learning EMEA. Martin J (2005). Organisational behaviour and management. 3rd edition. Cengage learning EMEA publishers. Morgan G. (2006). Images of organization. SAGE publishers. Porter L. W, Angle H L & Allen R. W (2003). Organisational influence processes. 2nd edition. M. E. Sharpe publishers. Salaman G. (2001). Understanding business organizations: organizations. Routledge publishers. Vigoda-Gadot. E & Drory A. (2006). Handbook of organisational politics. Edward Elgar publishing. .

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Organisational behaviour: Power, conflict and organisational politics. (2018, Jul 09). Retrieved from

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