Brian Kazungu, 12/05/2023
Organisational politics can be defined as an act and an attempt to influence opinions, decisions and actions of others in a given institution by manipulating relationships usually for personal selfish interests.
Organisational politics is found in almost every institution on earth but in varying degrees of impact.
It is even more difficult to pick and correct the effect and subsequent impact of organisational politics when there are no clearly defined duties and set boundaries of jurisdiction among the staff members.
An organisation might fail to escape the negative consequences of organisational politics if you do not handle the developments carefully and timeously.
There must be some mechanisms that are put in place to identify and solve the issues related to this negative phenomenon.
The basic and effective mechanism for adoption in this regard is the implementation of a mission statement, company policy, organizational structure and defined duties and responsibilities since these help people to focus and concentrate on specific areas.
An institution without the following critical elements of administration will easily succumb to organisational politics in way that threatens profitability and even continuity:
- A Mission Statement – to define the company’s identity.
- Company Policy – to give guidelines on activities.
- Defined duties and responsibilities – to provide a mechanism for monitoring and evaluation.
- Organisational structure – to determine inter-relationships especially among superiors and their subordinates.
- Defined lines of communication – to guide and promote efficient passage of information for quick decision making.
- Formal meetings – for feedback and brain storming.
The above mechanisms help to leverage the differences in personal, educational, religious and ideological backgrounds that usually affects interpersonal harmony in any given setting.
Organisational politics can happen at any level of the company, often based on personal or ideological differences. These differences can divide or split the company’s personnel to the extent that the institution becomes inefficient or incapacitated to move on.
People in every environment do have personal likes and dislikes, do’s and don’ts as well as their own aspirations.
These characteristics tend to place those of similar qualities into their own respective groups and side-line those who think differently.
In SMEs, informal groups tend to be more rampant because of lack of clear organisational structures, lines of communication, systems and policies when compared to established companies.
The most significant danger of organisational politics is that it diverts employees’ attention from concentrating on the core business of the enterprise.
There will arise a deepened focus on personal issues (differences) and people will mischievously engage in informal associations in order to prove superiority and relevance to fellow workers.
These associations are usually abused for personal selfish interests which might range from spite and settling personal differences even up to the natural desire for dominance.
The informal structures and communication models that may arise are fuelled by grapevine which is the most important factor in the creation, maintenance and expansion of organisational politics and thus the need to have proper lines of communication.
When organisational politics establishes itself in your business, resources and valuable time gets abused as people tend use the company’s resources to address their own personal issues during working time.
As an entrepreneur, you must therefore be vigilant in order to identify unsanctioned gatherings and a tense mood at the workplace since these are reflective of the existence of organisational politics in one way or the other.
Unfortunately, the presence of organizational politics means that customer complaints and concerns will take long to get addressed since employees will be busy with their personal issues.
Stakeholder correspondence will take long to be attended to since people will not be concentrating on their specified mandate or key result areas.
Once this development sets in, customers will start to feel not valued because of lack of attention in the customer service delivery process.
When these customers’ concerns are aired but are not addressed, they are likely to leave your company and take their patronage somewhere else.
Employee attitudes and behaviour can be analysed during the course of their duties in order to identify any symptoms of organizational politics.
This is because the relationships that are displayed during these times is very important in the setting of the organisational mood which in turn has a bearing on the reputation of the business as a whole.
An observation of the way how employees generally interact can also reflect how they subtly associate during business hours and thus such an analysis can be useful in designing a strategy to promote positive interaction.
This can go a long way in preventing and minimizing the instances and the negative effects of organisational politics.
The observation and analysis of how people are interacting in your organization should not be an attempt to spy on your employees but rather an assessment of their interaction in order to re-align it with the group objectives through creating a warm environment.
You must remember that this is done in order to identify possible ways through which you can improve the interpersonal interaction of people in your organization.
This monitoring and assessment can also be done in order to see if the informal developments can be incorporated in the overall administration of the institution by analysing the merits and demerits of some developments in line with your set objectives.
Organisational politics can be a silent but dangerous business assassin that can bring down the company.
However, it can be eliminated or minimised by putting systems in place and by conducting regular meetings as well as evaluating lines of communication since mostly such politics result from disgruntlement.
You must understand that business success is a result of the sum total of the efforts of individuals in every department of the enterprise and therefore effort must be put to make sure that these efforts are harmoniously integrated for the good of all.
Tasks and duties in an organization needs to be clearly defined so that individuals that are spending time and other resources in a way that negatively affects the smooth operations of the business can easily be noticed.
Both Start-ups and very big organisations can succumb to organisational politics in the sense that start-ups would not have put systems in place from the onset while big organisations would not have reviewed their systems to match and suit their expanded size.
Organisational politics will sooner or later negatively affect business reputation and profitability since employees will no longer be concentrating on upholding company values and thus interfering with achieving company goals.
Once identified, the causes of organizational politics must be analysed and be solved. The perpetrators of such developments must be engaged in a formal platform to discuss these issues and iron out the differences.
As long as you engage in business, you should be aware of the fact that organisational politics is a reality and therefore its effects in the company must be monitored, minimised or even be eliminated.
Please take note of the fact that human behaviour and interaction is not an accidental eventuality but is a deliberate response to the environmental dictates.
As such, human interaction should therefore be analysed so that whenever it is no longer in line with an institution’s set objectives, the necessary steps or remedies should be implemented.
Conflicts in an organisation can even be a deliberate mechanism by rival companies and some unscrupulous established businesses to destabilise the operations of your enterprise even in its infancy.
It is therefore important to convene meetings and get the necessary updates and feedback on the operations of the company rather than to wait and institute an investigation when organisational politics get ‘volcanic’.
I have deliberately used the term ‘volcanic’ because of the fact that it can erupt suddenly all at once and destroy the existing set up.
This eruption could however be a result of some reactions that were taking place underground without being observed.
Just in the same way that volcanoes are being studied and monitored so that necessary steps can be taken before eruptions, it is also necessary to make sure that you study and interpret the signs and characteristics of organisational politics before it is too late.
This will help to safeguard the business from sudden failure or any other negative consequences that are associated with this phenomenon.
Adapted from The SME HANDBOOK written by Brian Kazungu
Amazon Book Link: https://amzn.to/3geP4ux
Author Profile: https://www.amazon.com/author/briankazungu