Power And Politics

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Power and Politics

Power and Politics


The study of power as part of organizational political action by all stakeholders is an emerging field of interest aimed at improving individual leadership and overall organizational effectiveness. All participants in the group regardless of kind of organization have and use power; men and women, superiors, peers, and subordinates. Men and women emphasize somewhat different ways to use power, as do subordinates when compared to superiors or peers. Group member success regardless of group is dependent on the appropriateness of the particular power tactic(s) used in their political dynamics with others in the group. (Vasquez, 1999)

The Importance of Power in Organizational Life

Power is a part of all organized behavior. Organizational power politics permeates all organizational action. Using power is valuable to us as a means to achieve some desired future action in others. It is instrumental; that is, people use power as an aid to achieve their intended results. We use power to achieve other goals than power itself. Although we recognize that power can, and sometimes is, an end goal, its basic use is instrumental. Power has utility for the group member most often as an intermediary tool to achieve some personal desired end value. It does not have utility (or, some say, even being) as a "stored resource." In fact evidence supports the contention that power is not a "tangible," storable commodity (like information, or money, or raw materials). Rather its main value is in its use. The idea of power has both emotional and ethical impact. For many it carries negative connotations. Some see power as "manipulation," "coercion," "control," "force." For many, power use has Machiavellian connotations. Of course, power is, or can be, manipulative. We see power at work in behaviors such as "brownnosing," "yesing" the boss, and similar sycophantic action. In fact, "Machiavellian" has come to epitomize the worst in manipulative, exploitative, self-serving power use.

A balanced perspective allows, however, for an alternative construction of the situation and a more positive view, one that sees power as ethically neutral. The ethics of power lies not in power itself, but in the motives and values of the user. As with any other tool, we can use power for "good," that is, for socially developmental purposes, or for "bad," that is, for personal aggrandizement. User goals and operational results achieved, not power application itself, are the ethical criteria (Vasquez, 1999). One ...
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