Perceptions of Organizational Politics: A Meta-Analysis of Theoretical Antecedents

Article excerpt

In the last twenty years, researchers and practitioners alike have become increasingly interested in political behavior within organizations. Although political behavior can have both positive and negative outcomes, most of the research has focused upon "dark side" (Ferris and King, 1991) political behaviors, which are behaviors not sanctioned by the organization (i.e., illegitimate) and characterized by self-interest (e.g., taking credit for others' work, coalition building, personal attacks upon others competing for the same resources, and decisions based upon favoritism). This type of political behavior tends to create a harmful and divisive work environment, reduces organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and has exceedingly harmful effects upon workers (Kacmar et al., 1999; Mintzberg, 1983).

Research on organizational politics has largely focused upon perceptions of organizational politics because of Lewin's (1936, Principles of Topological Psychology) suggestion that individuals act upon their perceptions of reality rather than objective reality (Ferris et al., 2002). Indeed, there is empirical evidence suggesting that perceived reality is the most important factor in determining workers' attitudes and behavior (Breaux et al., 2009). Perceived organizational politics "involves an individual's attribution of behaviors of self-serving intent and is defined as an individual's subjective evaluation about the extent to which the work environment is characterized by co-workers and supervisors who demonstrate such self-serving behavior" (Ferris et al., 2000: 90). Perceived organizational politics is sometimes cast as a "hindrance" or threatening form of stressor in that it constrains an individual's belief in their ability to achieve personal and professional goals (Chang et al., 2009; Lepine et al., 2005). Recent meta-analytic reviews provide strong evidence supporting the view that perceptions of organizational politics are related to reduced job satisfaction, organizational commitment, citizenship behavior, task performance and increased psychological strain (Chang et al., 2009; Miller et al., 2008).

Given the strong evidence linking perceptions of organizational politics (POP) with a variety of negative outcomes for individuals and their employers, it is critically important for organizations to attend to those factors that contribute to the development of these perceptions (Chang et al., 2009). In their extensive review of the literature examining antecedents of politics perceptions, Ferris et al. (2002) conclude that most of the antecedents have been substantiated by research. However, many of the antecedents included in the Ferris et al. (2002) review had only been examined a few times and half of the variables examined had only been investigated one time (see Table 3, pp. 196-197). Further, Ferris et al.'s (2002) literature review indicates inconsistency in findings in some of the cases where there is more than one study, including: centralization, formalization, hierarchical level, job autonomy, feedback, and a variety of personal influences (i.e., age, gender, organization tenure, minority status, and locus of control). Others also note these inconsistencies (e.g., Adams et al., 2008; Kacmar and Baron, 1999; Miller and Nichols, 2008). These types of inconsistencies may be due to low statistical power or may occur because there truly is no relationship between the antecedents and perceptions of organizational politics (Parker et al., 1995). Therefore, because of the small number of studies available for Ferris et al. (2002) to review and because Ferris et al. (2002) use a vote counting procedure to integrate the empirical literature (i.e., counting statistically significant and nonsignificant findings), it is likely that Ferris et al. (2002) may have reached the wrong conclusions in some cases (Hunter and Schmidt, 2004). Further, Hunter and Schmidt state that even "where the voting method correctly leads to the conclusion that an effect exists, the critical question of the size of the effect is still left unanswered" (2004: 446). …