Workplace Politics - Machiavellianism


Workplace politics is the tact of implementing power of social networking within an organization so that decisions can be influenced to certain people’s personal benefits − like access to assets, benefits, status, and pseudo-authority − without regard to their effect on the organization itself. It is also known as Office Politics or Organizational Politics.

To its advantage, it can be said that in certain cases, organizational politics can boost interpersonal relations, increase efficiency, facilitate speedier change, and profit the organization and its members simultaneously.

Workplace Politics is linked to a human personality trait called Machiavellianism, which means employing cunningness and duplicity in workplace. It is named after the 15th century Renaissance historian and political theorist, Niccolò Machiavelli.

Niccolò Machiavelli

In his infamous book The Prince, Machiavelli has provided his observation on the way rulers should govern their subjects. He imagines the prince to be someone who has been elevated to the throne and newly entrusted with the responsibility of the empire, and compares him with a prince who occupies the throne automatically through the traditional process of dynasty.

Machiavellian Comparison of Two Princes

In his comparison of two princes, Machiavelli mentions that the hereditary prince has the responsibility of only retaining the power handed over to him. All he has to do is to now carefully maintain and provide the lifestyle the people are accustomed to living in, so as to not spark a rebellion or public outrage.

In contrast, a new prince faces a much more difficult task: he has to first get accustomed to his new found power quickly, and then earn the respect of the courtiers and public by stabilizing that power to build a lasting political structure. Machiavelli wonders if the new prince will be as easily accepted as a prince born to the throne, especially with dynasty politics in play where people are generally aware of who the next ruler is going to be.

Prince Faces

In conclusion, he tries to make his readers realize that while the hereditary prince is going to gain acceptance and authority as his birth-right, the new prince will have to resort to some sort of corruption to achieve the same stability and security during his rule. While many writers and thinkers of his time would have probably said the same thing, what set Machiavelli apart was his belief that public morality was different from private morality.

In his observation, a person may be moral in his personal life, and yet he should be ready to take immoral decisions if his position so demanded. A ruler should not always be concerned about his reputation, and must be prepared to implement brute force, deceit, even annihilation of entire lineages of noble families, if need be, to establish order and respect for gaining authority.

This line of thinking introduced people to the concept of leading two different lives, divided by different responsibilities, expectations, and needs. In modern world, we call them Personal life and Professional life.

Machiavellianism at Workplace

Machiavellianism has been a subject of intense study over the past many years, especially with the introduction of industries and companies, when a hierarchal model of passing orders and extracting work from end laborers was established. Physical toil wasn’t easy or sustainable over a period of time, so people started practicing Machiavellianism as a means of moving up the ladder and become instructors.

Machiavellianism Workplace

This “ends justify the means” justification has been observed in the functioning of many of our present-day organizations by industry experts, and the verdict that they have collectively given is that Machiavellianism not only exists in today’s workplace but is also an indispensable part of managerial tactics in today’s age.

People adopt Machiavellianism at work to meet three broad ends −

  • Gaining and maintaining power
  • Gaining and maintaining influence
  • Managing different groups through manipulation

The power to control people is a hidden desire in most of people, so many individuals are drawn towards engaging in office politics. While some of these go up the ladder using their social networking skills, the majority face highly destructive these Individuals and groups may engage in office politics which can be highly destructive consequences.

The biggest blow is perhaps faced by the organization itself. A company works due to its employees, and when they start competing with each other through under-handed means instead of collaborating, then it brings a creativity crisis as people focus on personal gains at the expense of the organization. This also causes severe collateral damage as sincere, hard-working employees also sometimes have to unwillingly take a stand with either of the parties to avoid being manipulated by seniors and managers.