Workplace Politics - Legitimate


There is no backing out. It is a bitter truth that, politics is the head of all organizations. Being a politician is part of the job for management. Constructive Organizational politics must be accepted for what it really is, as without this starting point, no manager is likely to be encouraged to improve his or her own political skill.

We start the discussion with a simple question ‘What is meant by power?’ It is important to ensure a clear answer to this as, in spite of the obvious use of Organizational power that all managers address day by day, it is an elusive concept.

One noticeable similarity to be considered is how many of the vexed issues surrounding Organizational politics appear to be a microcosm of the problems people see in upholding the standards of democratic government. In opposite, however, while many managers may struggle with the thought of legitimizing Organizational politics, few debate that the standards of political democracy should be eliminated.

The Problem of Power

Power is problematic for two reasons. First, as so many of the management and Organizational thinkers to study the subject have found, it is difficult to define Organizational Power. This is surprising in some aspect because on the face of it, there often appears to be little doubt about who powerful and why they are able to wield their power. Anyway, on closer examination, there is complexity and contradiction surrounding the idea of Organizational power, which rationally has a direct impact on any attempt to use it in the management process.

Second, the potential and actual use of power leads to moral dilemmas for managers that are confused, and in some situations, deep anxiety. Power attracts others towards the issues of personal duty that is in the heart of management, and to the question of how much individual executives should participate to the companies that hire them.

In short, power can be defined as the capacity of individuals and groups to flatter or coax their own preferences upon others, to execute their choice in such a way that everybody has to do it.

There are precise three questions that needs to be answered to understand the features of power −

  • First, how much power can be given to specific individuals or groups? Is it a property?

  • Second, does power have to be seen with all aspects? Is it being practiced?

  • Third, how centered is power in any Organizational process when it is not practiced over one another?

Primary Sources of Power

It is essential to acknowledge that the sources of power that are completely unique from one another. In simple words, one source may facilitate managers with access to another, however many of these sources are independent. It has to be made clear that when an individual enjoys access to all the main sources of situational power, there is real scope for Organizational influence.

The primary conditional sources of power are as follows −

Formal Authority

It is also called as ‘legitimate power’. It derives its lawful status from the core social value of rational organization, in which control and co-ordination internally build a pyramid structure. This value marks the importance of today’s society. Generally, it determines the ‘natural’ shape of organizations engaged in the process.

Control over the Flow of Information

This is based on an old thought i.e. ‘information is power’. In spite of the liberating effects of information technology, this school of thought gives good organizational reasons to manage information flow. ‘Classified information’ is not just a formal way of acknowledging prohibited access but it states what people unofficially select to withhold from others.

People ‘in the know’ have a habit of ‘privatizing’ information, mainly when they have gone out of their way to acquire it. Physical closeness is an essential factor even in today’s generating where ‘geography does not matter’.

The importance of an individual or group to the Organization

It is referred as ‘nobody is indispensable’ but in the short term practice they may be, as others rely on Legitimate Politics.

The dependencies between the range of major sections of activity within organizations shows that one unit is capable of reducing uncertainty for others, it enjoys a powerful position. For example the role of financing operations in controlling spend, influence certainty of work for other sections of an Organization. The best part is the budget is always approved.

Control over Hard Rewards

Career progression, remuneration, regular employment and autonomy of function are all tangible rewards, and those make decisions regarding individuals to be rewarded are more powerful individuals. Rewards need to be valued by the beneficiaries if they have to work in this way. Less tangible rewards of praise and recognition are excluded from this section, because these are closely linked up with the credibility of an individual with power.

It is essential to acknowledge that these conditional sources of power are completely unique from one another. In simple words, one source may facilitate managers with access to another, these sources are independent. It has to follow that when an individual enjoys access to all of the main sources of situational power there is real scope for Organizational influence.

Situational sources of power are precise capacities of individuals to influence in the sources that are awarded, gifted or captured, and so are temporarily ‘owned’. In contrast, personal sources of power, are easily recognizable as individual capabilities. They are considered as the permanent personal possessions.