Organizational politics exist in every organization. Many view politics as a fact of life. But often organizational politics is a taboo subject – many people simply will not discuss organizational politics. They are often considered the “dark” side of the organization. However, it is important to recognize that many political actions are regarded as positive, for example, mentoring and sharing information.
Research shows that there is a greater need to engage in organizational politics as one advances in the organization. Typically as one moves up the corporate ladder, objectives become more ambiguous and conflicting, as do performance requirements. Organizational politics can make the workplace treacherous, and it can be hard to determine where the political landmines reside — until it is too late. To compound the problem, there is relatively little focus on organizational politics in most business curricula, including the popular MBA degree. There is also relatively little empirical research relating to political behaviour.
We undertook empirical research to explore group differences in individual political behaviour and attitudes amongst senior managers, who are typically expected to be savvy and active concerning organizational politics. Two of our research findings were that women in executive positions are not adverse to political behaviour, and women behave just as politically as men.
Many working their way up the corporate ladder are stymied about how to handle organizational politics. Not being skilled in this important area can be career-limiting. Many people in organizations don’t know how to recognize politics, let alone use political actions effectively.
Ways to Develop Your Political Skills:
1. Learn about organizational politics, for example, read books and articles by Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer.
2. Recognize political actions when they are happening in your organization. Who is politically skilled? Can you learn from them?
3. Determine which political actions you need to use more effectively.
4. When trying a new political action, first use it in low risk situations until you become confident using it.
5. Keep track (in a journal) of which political actions worked for you and which ones did not. Analyze your results over time.
6. Work with a knowledgeable coach.
Remember, research shows that managers and leaders need to be effective in recognizing and using political actions. Are you ready to work on your political skills?
If you would like to discuss coaching with me related to developing your political skills, I will welcome your contact. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org . I have developed a questionnaire related to political actions, which provides a great starting point for coaching conversations!
© Dr. Karen Somerville, PhD, MBA, Certified Executive Coach, CPA, CGA — with more than 25 years of experience in Senior Management. Karen is the President of Performance Plus Group: www.performanceplusgroup.com .
Pfeffer, J., (1992). Managing with power: Politics and influence in organizations, Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Somerville, K. and Dyke, L. (2006). Gender and age differences in organizational politics. Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division, Banff, AB, Canada, June 4-6.
Somerville, K. and Dyke, L., (2007). The relationship of politics perceptions to outcomes amongst executives. Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, Organizational Behaviour Division, Ottawa, ON, Canada, June 2-7.